SINGAPORE – In the lead-up to the forthcoming presidential elections, The Workers’ Party (WP) has made its stance clear: it will not endorse any of the three presidential candidates.
The party has also clarified that it is not calling upon its members or volunteers to assist them in any official capacity.
For over 30 years, the WP has consistently opposed the concept of an elected presidency. The party’s preference is to abolish this role and transition to a ceremonial presidency instead.
They have repeatedly voiced concerns that the existing qualifying criteria for presidential candidates favour those endorsed by the People’s Action Party (PAP).
According to a WP statement, the present setup of the elected presidency “undermines parliamentary democracy” and has the potential to lead to political gridlocks. The statement highlighted the risk of such a structure stifling a non-PAP government in its nascent stage.
This election cycle has witnessed the independence of the presidential candidates being rigorously examined.
The three main contenders – Mr Ng Kok Song, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Mr. Tan Kin Lian – have had their non-partisanship questioned during recent campaign events. Observers suggest that the race may turn out to be heavily partisan.
In a bid to differentiate himself, Mr Ng has branded himself as the sole non-partisan candidate, expressing concerns about Mr Tan’s affiliations and Mr. Tharman’s potential conflict of interest.
Mr Tharman has advised the electorate to focus on a candidate’s character and past achievements, rather than sticking to labels.
Mr Tan, however, defended himself, stating that any endorsements he received from opposition figures were made in a personal capacity. Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr Tan Jee Say, both of whom vied for the presidency in 2011, recently advocated for Mr Tan.
Other supporters from the opposition include Peoples Voice chief Lim Tean, People’s Power Party’s Goh Meng Seng, and Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam. Most recently, Dr Chee Soon Juan also publicly voiced support for Mr Tan on a Facebook page on Wednesday.
The PSP, while not officially endorsing a candidate, emphasized the importance of a president who symbolizes Singapore’s unity and remains non-partisan.
In a 2016 speech, WP Chairperson Sylvia Lim recounted the origins of the elected presidency, created with the aim of protecting the country’s past reserves.
However, she pointed to subsequent modifications in its structure and its unintended consequences when the first elected president, late Ong Teng Cheong publicly expressed concerns over the lack of information on the national reserves that he was assigned to safeguard.
Ms Lim advocated a return to an appointed presidential system and proposed a Senate, composed of elected members, to guard the country’s reserves. The idea, of course, was rejected by the PAP MPs who hold a supermajority in Parliament.
Campaigning for the presidential election is set to conclude on Wednesday, with a cooling-off day on Thursday. Singaporeans are set to cast their votes on Friday, 1 September.