SINGAPORE: On Sunday (27 Aug), in a significant political development to the Presidential Election 2023 (PE2023), Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a former candidate from the Presidential Election 2011, endorsed former competitor Tan Kin Lian’s presidential campaign.
This follows after Mr Tan Jee Say, 69, another candidate from PE2011, acted as Tan Kin Lian’s proposer on nomination day.
the trio made a joint appearance at People’s Park Food Centre on Sunday. When addressing the media, Dr Tan, chair of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) but speaking in his personal capacity as a previous presidential contender, extended his endorsement to Mr Tan Kin Lian.
The 83-year-old emphasized their shared vision, referring to their bond as that of “comrades.”
Dr Tan accentuated the need for an “independent president” and underscored the president’s crucial role in overseeing the nation’s reserves and ensuring the country’s competent governance.
Hinting at potential risks posed by establishment-aligned candidates, Dr Tan stated, “Somebody who’s with the establishment… maybe makes them very uncomfortable if they choose to take decisions contrary to what the establishment people want.”
Accusations of “gutter politics”
When the media questioned the substantial support provided by Dr Tan Cheng Bock to Tan Kin Lian, Ng Kok Song, a contender in the PE2023 Presidential race, expressed his concern.
He referred to the situation as a “very unhealthy and worrisome development”, where “several leaders from several opposition parties ganging up to endorse Mr Tan Ki Lian.”
“The people concerned are confused between the Presidential Election and General Election,” he said.
During a media interaction at Chinatown Complex on Sunday afternoon, Mr Ng, 75, further elaborated, stating, “They are dragging the presidential election into gutter politics. I think that’s quite shameful. How can you dishonour the presidency by making this presidential election into gutter politics? We should not dishonour the office of the president.”
Mr Ng, formerly the chief investment officer of sovereign wealth fund GIC, asserted, “What happened this (Sunday) morning is going against the spirit of the Constitution.”
He stressed that the essence of the presidential election is to unify the people of Singapore and that the President should serve as a force for unity.
“I think the people of Singapore will begin to realize that you do not want to vote for a candidate who is going to be manipulated by several opposition parties who are supporting (him).”
“We must prevent the presidency from being manipulated by any political party.”
During a visit to Tampines Round Market and Food Centre earlier on Sunday, Mr Ng emphasized the issue of presidential candidates receiving endorsements from political parties.
He highlighted his status as the sole non-partisan candidate running for the presidency and contrasted this with the endorsement received by fellow candidate and former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam from the Government and the People’s Action Party.
Mr Ng said: “It is very important for us to safeguard the integrity of the public service because you do not want a president who is beholden to any political party, you do not want a president who can be manipulated to serve the political agenda of any political party.”
Mr. Tharman’s recent statement, made on Saturday, clarified that he does not carry an endorsement from any political party.
He expressed that it would have been regrettable if former President Ong Teng Cheong and Dr Tan Cheng Bock, both former members of the People’s Action Party (PAP), were disqualified due to their past affiliations.
When asked about potential adjustments to his campaign strategy following the endorsements of Mr. Tan Kin Lian by Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr Tan Jee Say, Mr Ng shared that this development reinforces the essential message that a presidential candidate should remain non-partisan.
Former presidential candidate Mohamed Salleh Marican, who is among Mr Ng’s supporters, released a statement on Sunday evening.
According to the Constitution, he highlighted, a presidential candidate must not hold membership in any political party, as the president’s duty is to ensure checks and balances on the Government.
Mr. Salleh also recalled his own intention to run for president in 2017, as the founder and CEO of Second Chance Properties, though he didn’t meet the qualification criteria.
“I urge Singaporeans to look beyond partisan politics and vote to strengthen the constitutional oversight of Singapore’s governance,” he said.
A spokesperson for Mr Tharman’s team issued a statement in response, stating: “Mr Tharman has consistently urged, with respect to all his fellow candidates, that we avoid politicising the presidential elections.
“The focus should be on each candidate’s individual character, breadth of experience and ability to contribute to Singapore’s future as head of state.”