Tan Kin Lian submits Certificate of Eligibility, intensifying race for Singapore presidency

Tan Kin Lian speaking at a Hong Lim Park event

SINGAPORE: Tan Kin Lian, former CEO of NTUC Income and candidate in the Singapore Presidential Election of 2011, confirmed on Sunday that he had submitted his application for the Certificate of Eligibility for the upcoming presidential election.

The submission, according to Tan, was made three weeks prior, possibly giving him an early lead against other potential candidates.

In a series of Facebook posts, Tan provided insights into his thoughts and aspirations for the upcoming election. He acknowledged the formidable popularity of former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and veteran politician of the People’s Action Party (PAP), whom he views as his main competitor, and estimated his chances of success at around 10%.

Despite the slim odds, Tan, who has spoken up on various social issues over the past decade even after his unsuccessful presidential bid, expressed his commitment to addressing the high cost of living in Singapore. He promises to work alongside the government if elected, emphasizing his loyalty to his supporters and pledging to advocate for their interests.

Tan only secured 4.9% of the vote in the 2011 presidential election and lost his deposit; however, he is likely the only candidate from the private sector who would still qualify following the 2017 amendments to the Singapore Constitution.

These amendments saw the financial criteria for private sector candidates raised substantially from a company with S$100 million in paid-up capital to one with S$500 million in shareholders’ equity.

Tan, who served as the CEO of NTUC Income between 1997 and 2007, submitted his application for the Certificate of Eligibility under a Special Clause. He referenced his experience leading an insurance cooperative with a shared capital of S$500 million and assets of S$17 billion. In the previous election, he was granted the Certificate of Eligibility on 11 August 2011, along with three other candidates.

So far, aside from Tan, three other potential candidates have emerged – Tharman, former GIC head of investment Ng Kok Song, and entrepreneur George Goh. All three have announced their interest in running for the presidency, which must be elected by 13 September as President Halimah Yacob’s six-year term comes to an end.

However, it remains uncertain whether Ng and Goh’s companies meet the private sector criteria. The Presidential Election Committee (PEC) may utilise its discretionary power to qualify either or both of these candidates.

Notably, Madam Ho Ching recently hinted on her Facebook post that only two potential candidates who have ties to the PAP government, essentially Tharman and Ng, would be eligible for the race.

In her post, the former Temasek CEO and spouse of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote:

“At 75, with a wealth of experience and a lifetime of public service behind him, Kok Song could well enjoy his retirement. It does require a certain bent of character and duty to come forward and offer himself as a candidate for the public to scrutinise and assess if they would want to vote for him. It can be very humbling when voters reject us, no? Takes courage to run the gauntlet for a very private sort of person. It is good that Singaporeans can choose between 2 very capable and worthy persons, who bring different strengths to the role of Sg’s President.”

If Tan’s candidacy is approved, the PEC might decide to allow all four potential candidates to run, potentially replicating the dynamics of the 2011 Presidential Election. In that election, the PAP’s preferred candidate won by a mere margin of 0.35% over Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

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