Tharman, Ng Kok Song and Tan Kin Lian granted Certificate of Eligibility for presidential race; George Goh misses out

Former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song and former NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lian

SINGAPORE: The Elections Department (ELD) unveiled on Friday (18 Aug) the list of eligible candidates for the upcoming Presidential Election.

Former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, ex-GIC Chief Investment Officer Ng Kok Song, and former presidential aspirant Tan Kin Lian have been deemed eligible to run.

Businessman George Goh, however, did not receive a Certificate of Eligibility, falling short in the application process.

ELD received six applications in total for the Certificate of Eligibility by the cut-off on Thursday. The identities of the applicants were initially withheld. Alongside, the department acknowledged 16 community declarations at the deadline.

Holders of the Certificate of Eligibility are acknowledged as individuals of utmost integrity, commendable character, and reputation. Moreover, they meet the mandatory public or private sector service criteria.

As stipulated by Singapore’s Constitution, presidential contenders from the public sector should have held pivotal positions such as a minister, chief justice, Speaker of the House, or attorney-general, among others, for a minimum of three years. Leaders of significant statutory boards or government-linked entities like Temasek also qualify.

Candidates emerging from the private sector must have served for three years as the chief executive of a company, which during their tenure, should have maintained an average shareholders’ equity of no less than S$500 million (US$372 million) and remained profitable throughout.

Goh had been under the scanner, with experts skeptical about his compliance with these conditions. In his defence, Goh stated that five companies under his helm accumulated a shareholders’ equity of S$1.521 billion over three years, surpassing the mandated figure.

ELD noted that unsuccessful applicants have been notified about their results and the Committee’s rationale and due to the Presidential Elections (Certificate of Eligibility) Regulations 2017, the Committee won’t publicly disclose reasons for rejections or the names of unsuccessful candidates.

This decision aligns with the 2016 Constitutional Commission’s concerns about deterring potential contenders. However, these applicants can choose to share the Committee’s reasons given to them.

The imminent task for Tharman, Ng, and Tan is their formal nomination as candidates. The trio has until Aug 22, Nomination Day, to submit their nomination documents, which includes the Certificate of Eligibility, community certificate, and political donation certificate.

ELD had previously, on 1 June, declared the update and public access to the Registers of Electors. Potential candidates could apply for the Certificate of Eligibility and community certificate starting 13 June.

Tharman was the pioneer to announce his candidacy on 8 June. Following suit were Goh and Ng on 12 June and 19 July, respectively, while Tan declared his run on 11 August though he had previously announced having submitted his COE application on 30 July.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially announced the Writ of Election on 11 August.

Nomination proceedings are slated for 22 August, between 11am and 12pm, at the People’s Association auditorium on King George’s Avenue.

Each candidate is required to deposit S$40,500 ahead of Nomination Day. If multiple nominations are validated, the public will cast their votes on 1 September, Polling Day, which will be observed as a public holiday.

Approved candidates can commence their campaigns once a contested election is declared and can continue until Cooling-off Day, which precedes Polling Day.

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