SINGAPORE: On Tuesday (15 Aug), highlighting the importance of unity among “independent candidates,” Presidential hopeful Tan Kin Lian emphasized his concern about vote splitting if his fellow contender, George Goh, also qualifies for the Presidential Election 2023.
Tan, a former NTUC Income chief executive, expressed his hope that Mr Goh would reconsider his decision not to step down from the race, and emphasized that it would not be favorable to divide the votes among “independent candidates.”
However, George Goh, giving his “final comment” about Tan Kin Lian, reiterated his firm stance to run the Presidential campaign.
He reiterated that running for the Presidential Election is a “serious matter”, and urging other candidates to concentrate on their campaigns, be prepared, and let the voters decide.
Regarding concerns about his eligibility for PE 2023, Mr Goh acknowledged the difficulty independent candidates face due to uncertain rules.
Goh asserted that although these challenges exist, he has already prepared all his campaign materials.
“As an entrepreneur, I move forward confidently and don’t complain. ”
Mr Goh’s remarks came during a media interview at Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre on Wednesday (16 Aug). He also summarized his main response in his recent Facebook post.
Goh, the Harvey Norman Ossia founder, in an earlier press interaction on Monday, denied having any agreement with Tan Kin Lian to step down in case both qualify for the Presidential Election.
“I don’t think this should be the way.” Clarifying after a dialogue at Bisoux cafe, Goh said every aspiring candidate “must be genuine”.
Goh remains confident about his eligibility, stating that his consortium of five companies – which remains undisclosed – boasts a combined shareholders’ equity of S$1.521 billion over the past three years.
In preparations for the upcoming election, Goh expressed his proactive approach, emphasizing the need for early preparations rather than waiting for the Certificate of Eligibility from the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC).
Mr Goh reflects on George Yeo’s book and stresses independence in Presidential candidacy
On Wednesday, Mr Goh also commented on the revelations in George Yeo’s new book.
In Mr Yeo’s book titled ‘George Yeo: Musings,’ Yeo disclosed that he had been approached by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to participate in the 2011 Presidential Elections.
Yeo revealed that he was considered as one of the few individuals by PM Lee who could potentially compete successfully against the then-presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock.
However, Yeo respectfully declined, explaining that he felt “temperamentally unsuited to be president.” He emphasized that any decision to participate would be driven by duty rather than personal ambition.
In response to Yeo’s revelations, Mr Goh took the opportunity to suggest that this pattern appears to be “how the establishment works,” as individuals from within the establishment often emerge as contenders for the position of Elected President.
“This is similar to what I read about Mr S.R Nathan where he said that it was Mr Lee Kuan Yew who suggested for him to run, ” Mr Goh said.
This prompted Mr Goh to emphasize the importance of independence in the process.
“I am not told by anyone to run, and I do not change my mind if someone else tells me not to. ”
He reiterated that his decision was solidified in 2017 and that he continues to advance his candidacy without relying on the backing of a substantial political machinery.
“To me, this is the mark of a truly independent candidate.”
Tan Kin Lian suggests George Goh and Ng Kok Song might not qualify to contest in PE 2023 as well
Interestingly, Tan Kin Lian addressed George Goh’s eligibility concerns once again during a media interview on Tuesday night.
Tan Kin Lian emphasized that legal experts and political analysts who have scrutinized the regulations suggest a different picture.
He said, according to their assessment, a private candidate seeking the presidency is mandated to fulfill the eligibility criteria for a single company, possessing an average shareholders’ equity of at least S$500 million and exhibiting profitability.
“They said quite clearly, it’s not five companies,” Mr Tan said. Despite this, he extended his best wishes to George Goh and expressed his anticipation for a non-establishment candidate.
Reiterating his stance, should both he and Mr Goh qualify for the race, Tan Kin Lian conveyed his intention to engage in discussions with Mr Goh to prevent vote fragmentation.
Furthermore, he acknowledged the uncertainty regarding the number of potential candidates. He highlighted that there’s also a suggestion that another presidential hopeful, Ng Kok Song, might not meet the qualification criteria.
He maintained his expectation that there would ultimately be only one presidential candidate from outside the establishment.
“Whether there are two or three (candidates), it’s quite clear I will be proceeding ahead,” Tan affirmed.
Section 19(4)(a) of the Singapore Constitution states that the presidential eligibility criteria for a private candidate include a three-year tenure as a company’s chief executive.
During this period, the company must have an average shareholders’ equity of at least S$500 million (US$372 million) and must be profitable.
On 4 August, in response to media inquiries, George Goh asserted, “I have a group of five companies that have a combined shareholders’ equity of S$1.521 billion over three years.”
He further elaborated that this cumulative figure corresponds to an average annual shareholders’ equity of S$507 million for the entire consortium.
Analysts had earlier questioned whether Goh could satisfy these requirements. However, he revealed that five companies under his leadership collectively had a shareholders’ equity of S$1.521 billion over three years, exceeding the requirement.
Goh, reluctant to disclose the names of the five companies, confirmed they had been profitable every year for the past three years, and that he had held the highest executive position in each.