Some afterthoughts on Presidential elections 2011

“I long for the day of senior statesman who can represent our country as a head of state in the likes of ex-Presidents Yusof Bin Ishak and Dr Benjamin Sheares, statesmen who need not slug through yet another political campaigning process that divides the country instead of healing and uniting the people of Singapore.” – Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, Denise Phua


“The Singapore electorate is an intelligent electorate.” – Former top civil servant Ngaim Tong Dow (The Sunday Times, 18 Sep 2011)

  • It looks like there were many interpretations of the Constitutions of the Presidency, even among the PAP politicians and more disagreement amongst the four candidates. If these bright politicians can not agree, how do expect the men-on-the-street to know better? Obviously, either the Constitutions is too loose so as to allow wider interpretation or it is a bad Constitutions and need to be tightened.
  • A mere 7,269 votes (0.34%) separated Dr Tony Tan from Dr Tan Cheng Bock. It is highly likely that if Tan Jee Say had not offerred himself as a candidate, Dr. Tan Cheng Bock would have been elected the new President. Reason being it is more likely that this group of people who voted for Tan Jee Say are mainly hardcore opposition supporters and voters who are uncomfortable with Tony Tan’s close link with the ruling party. One may even suspect that a majority of the 30,000+ spolit votes are people who were sympathetic to the underdogs but nevertheless ignorant about the secrecy of their votes thus had chosen to void their precious votes.
  • For the first time in the history of Singapore Presidential Election, four candidates stepped forward voluntarily to serve the nation. I am comfortable if any one of them was elected as they are all men of integrity and honour. I agree one suggestion that Mr Tan Kin Lian’s deposit be refunded as goodwill since there is a stringent screening process unlike the General Election. I would even argue that if anyone of them have came forward in the last Presidential Election, they might even have given S.R. Nathan a run for his money.
  • As various forumers and political observers had rightly pointed out, with the stringent criteria very few minority candidates would be qualified let alone being elected as President (“Chances of a Malay president Dimmer”, The Straits Times 3Sep2011). Some observers such as Ho Kwong Ping also pointed out that few people with high integrity and (perhaps) fiscal prudence but zero political experience (such as the late Wee Kim Wee and S.R. Nathan) will be willing to subject themselves to the politicking. Only past politicians had a good chance henchforth, just ask Tan Kin Lian! The  weaknesses of the current system had been exposed totally in this election!
  • One candidate has an unfair advantage over the other three. Despite the Government avoided openly endorsing his candidacy, it was so “crystal clear” from the various speeches and comments by the ministers and prime minister who they prefer as the new President. Dr Tony Tan also has the unfair advantage of the public endorsement of business associations, unions and the PAP grassroot machinery to back him. Despite his superior impressive resume, he had only garnered about 35% of the vote, less than 0.4% than his closet rival. Dr Tan Cheng Bock should be really proud of his achievement given the uneven playing field.
  • If Dr Tony Tan intends to be a people’s President rather than a PAP’s President, he may well heed the voters’ wish for an independent President who will not shrink from his responsibility to guard the reserves, ask tough questions, rise above politics, care for the people especially the poor and provide the morale compass for the Government as the head of state. Most importantly, he should not be afraid to speak his mind if he has to, like what Tan Kin Lian has said: Constitution ‘doesn’t say President must be dumb’.
  • Lastly, the Government should have more fate in our voters, the Presidential and GE result clearly show the maturity of the voters and the desire for a better governance when the ruling party go astray by signalling their displeasure without creating instability in the political system. The ruling party should analyse the results carefully and make necessary changes, however painful it may be and they may well win back the support that they have lost in the last few years due to various misstep in policies and some say arrogance.

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First-past-the-post system unfair in multi-cornered contest

Source: The straits time 29Aug 2011

I CONGRATULATE Dr Tony Tan on winning the second contested presidential election, and being the nation’s seventh president (‘Tony Tan is president’; yesterday).

However, it is disturbing that an elected president did not receive more than a 50 per cent majority of votes.

One could even argue that 65 per cent of the electorate voted against the president-elect with Dr Tony Tan squeezing by with a razor-thin 0.34 per cent margin ahead of Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

Perhaps the first-past-the-post voting format should not be used in a

multi-contested presidential election.

A fairer option is to give each voter two votes so he can either vote for two candidates, or just one.

I am certain the results will be different if such a voting system is used.

A run-off by the top two candidates after the first round of voting is another option, but it is time-consuming and disruptive.

In any case, the Elections Department should consider an alternative format if a multi-cornered fight arises in the next presidential election.

Foo Chee Choong

Result confirms voter maturity

Source: The Staits Times  29 Aug 2011

FINALLY, we have a new president after 10 days of election hustings (‘Tony Tan is president’; yesterday). More if we consider the excitement about who was qualified for the job. My congratulations to Dr Tony Tan.

As a long-time resident and newly minted citizen, I found that Saturday’s presidential election proved conclusively that, despite our political angst, Singaporeans are mature.

We can distinguish between rhetoric and quality. We judged each of the four candidates substantively.

So, the Government should breathe easy and not stress about a freak result. Singaporeans have proven this time and time again.

And judging from the way Singa-poreans voted, I suggest that the current qualifying criteria for president be loosened – for instance, the requirement that an aspirant be a chief executive officer or hold equivalent office of a large corporation with paid-up capital of at least $100 million.

Such a stringent qualification may even exclude a Supreme Court judge, or other capable, popular and unifying presidents like the late Wee Kim Wee.

With limited executive powers and surrounded by a quality Cabinet, the president’s post does not require such restrictive criteria.

What the job should call for is a benevolent, rational and well-liked president who can relate to the masses.

While he, or she, may occasionally need to exercise critical judgment, the president will still enjoy the benefit of advice by a presidential council.

Second, Singapore has a president with only slightly more than one-third of the electorate’s support. A president should have the mandate and moral authority to represent the nation.

I am certain president-elect Dr Tan will do a good job in unifying and representing Singapore.

We expect no less from someone of his stature and personality. However, we should get rid of the first-past-the-post voting system.

If no candidate commands more than 50 per cent of the vote, there should be a run-off between the top two candidates to decide the winner who will receive more than half the votes.

Only then can we consider him a president elected with a clear mandate and moral authority.

Sonny Yuen


Source: The Straits Times   29 Aug 2011

‘Parliament must rethink the process and whether it is wise to hold a general election so close to a presidential election.’

MR SRIREKAM KESAVA PURUSHOTHAM: ‘I fully agree with Mr Ho Kwon Ping that the presidential election should not be turned into a referendum on any ruling party of the day (‘Process too politically charged?’; Friday). Parliament must rethink the presidential election process to prevent future misunderstanding by the electorate about the custodial powers vested in an elected president. Parliament should also consider whether it is wise to hold a general election so close to a presidential election, as the spill-over effect from a hotly contested general election can negatively influence voting in the presidential election.’

‘I am relieved it is over.’

MRS VIVIEN TAN: ‘As a senior citizen, I am relieved that the exercise in electing our seventh head of state is over. Congratulations are in order for Dr Tony Tan, and the three other candidates should also be thanked as their efforts have demonstrated the nation’s political pulse and the different aspirations of the people. Amid the celebrations, we should consider the suggestions for improvement by the contenders positively.’

‘Consider returning the deposit as a gesture of goodwill.’

MR KIM-GAU NG: ‘Currently a presidential candidate who obtains less than 12.5 per cent of the votes will not get his election deposit back. I hope the Government will consider returning the deposit to every candidate regardless of the number of votes he gets, as a gesture of goodwill, and remove this criterion for future elections. We already have a screening process to select suitable candidates before the election and should not punish anyone who loses in an election to serve the country.’

‘The other winner is Mr Tan Jee Say.’

MR LEE KAI YIN: ‘I congratulate Dr Tony Tan for winning the election as the seventh president. The other winner is Mr Tan Jee Say. It is clear that he wants to continue to be in the political arena and at age 57, he has the advantage of relative ‘youth’ on his side. Being a candidate has secured him nation-wide recognition and many supporters. Some opposition party members are his supporters and a number of the prominent ones spoke at his rally. More importantly, he has managed to convince half a million voters to vote for him. Those in the opposition who failed in the May General Election could do better at the next general election by allying themselves with Mr Tan.’