Sunday, August 14, 2011

To preside or not

The other day, a friend of mine made the point that a duly elected President in Singapore probably has a greater claim to being the people's representative compared to our Members of Parliament who were elected not too long ago. The reason? Well, many MPs were part of a group of candidates, and the group (known as Group Representative Constituency, or GRC for short) might get elected even if you don't think some one or two of its members deserve your vote. That is why MPs such as Tin Pei Ling would have lost if she had stood on her own.

So this will be proven true in 13 day's time when Singaporeans go to the polls once again, to elect the President of Singapore. There are now 4 contenders - whittled down from 6 due to the extremely stringent qualification criteria. In fact, at one point, there was even speculation that all 6 except one of the candidates would be dis-qualified. It now appears that having a contest is preferred over a walkover. Thus candidates Tony Tan, Tan Kin Lian, Tan Chen Bock and Tan Jee Say - all from the Tan clan - will put forward their reasons for people to elect them next week. It is GE reloaded! Interestingly, after spending so much time and effort in securing qualification, Mr Tan Kin Lian has hinted that he will not, after all, be running. One wonders if this whole thing is about electing an individual to become President, or electing a party/platform to make up for the losses in the last Parliamentary elections? If it is the latter, then Mr Tan Jee Say's candidacy is puzzling. If he wins the Presidency, he will effectively be 'gagged' by the Constitution. Yes, the Government will try its hardest to do that if it thinks you are 'out of line'. He will miss the next GE scheduled in 5 years' time, in 2016, or earlier. A President's terms is for 6 years. Isn't a voice in Parliament more 'free' and effective than that of a President? At least there you can be partisan and push your agenda. As President, you should be above the fray, not siding one way or another, at least not openly. Of course he can resign as President and take part in the GE, should he feel that he has made no headway in the highest post in the land.

Mr Tan is reportedly only 57 this year. I would have wished that he contest the next GE to improve the chances of increasing the number of opposition parliamentarians but this is not to be, unless he can wait another 10 years. By then he will be 67, which is really when he should be standing for President.

Let's see what happens this coming Wednesday, Nomination Day.

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