It was late and I stayed up all night to watch the result of the Presidential Election (PE).
This was unusual as so far I have avoided all the rallies and even political broadcasts from the four Presidential candidates.
Many of my NSP colleagues were helping out big time with either Mr Tan Jee Say’s camp or Mr Tan Kin Lian. Some spoke at their rallies and almost all of them helped out as polling or counting agents yesterday. I didn’t offer to help out as I was busy handling some personal stuff of my own.
As predicted, Dr Tony Tan won the PE and even some of my friends who voted for the opposition in the recent GE rooted for him. It went to show that when one decided on the choice of a President, it went beyond partisan politics. Voters are also concerned if the person can do the job well and whether he has the capabilities and experience to carry it off.
Apparently, the majority of the voters thought that Dr Tony Tan could do it well enough to garner 744, 397 votes (35.19%). Nevertheless, that means 2/3 of Singaporeans have not wanted the President-elect to take the seat signalling what many have speculated that we are entering into a very polarised stage of our political evolution. It’s any people guess if this will slowly led us to be more divisive and disunited.
Already, the deepening income disparity and weak social integration between the foreign-breed citizens and local citizens have caused some discontentment within the country. It is envisaged that Singaporeans will continue to vote for the opposition in years to come if these conflicting issues are not properly addressed soon.
“Why not Mr Tan Jee Say?” I questioned my friends in the opposition quarter - feeling that they have betrayed opposition politics when they switched camp within a short period of just three months.
“Jee Say is good but only for GE 2016,” my friends commented. “He can’t really carry himself well as a President.”
“He is better off as a Member of Parliament,” others opioned. “His best chance will come during the next election in 2016.”
I tend to concur with most of them even though I voted for Mr Tan Jee Say as a die-hard opposition member.
Most of them also commented that he caused a massive vote swing away from himself when he literally lost his temper at the conference organised by The Online Citizen (TOC).
He fretted when Dr Tony Tan weighed in a point midway through Mr Tan Jee Say’s speech during the interview.
Jee Say lost his cool and even though some felt that he did the right thing by making a point there, he lost many fragile votes that were still toying between choosing the incumbent Dr Tony Tan or Jee Say. Many of this group obviously belonged to the opposition party camp.
Jee Say also campaigned very much like a opposition MP – speaking up for the masses and often arguing his points across like a opposition candidate. I thought that I am listening to a General Election speech than a Presidential one as he talked of how he would champion for the general population.
Perhaps, his GE campaigning experience still resonated well within him as the GE was only held three months ago. Moreover, he only came into the political arena during the recent GE and is still considered raw political material and very much untested.
Anyway, I thought that the huge exposure he received from this PE contest will augur well for him during the next GE in 2016. He can contest any single ward and be expected to win or lose narrowly as people have already warm up to him as a champion of the masses.
As for my dear friend Mr Tan Kin Lian – sadly he only managed to garner around 103, 000 (4.9%) votes and lost his $48, 000 deposit. It was expected as many felt that he lacked the political exposure having stayed very quiet for many years after speaking up for the minibond investors at Speakers’ Corner in 2008.
If the Presidential Election was to be held three years ago, Kin Lian would have won hands down.
Due to personal reasons, he chose to stay on the political sidelines and Singaporeans hardly hear of him druing these past few years. During the last GE, he only spoke at the Tampines GRC rally and lacked the exposure required for people to warm up to him.
Moreover, his frequent clashes with internet enemies did not endear him well with the people. It is sometimes probably wise to ignore netizens’ posting of irrelevant stuff on the internet. A public figure should also be prepared for some unjust criticism – especially from the anonymous netizens.
I was however surprised at Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s narrow loss to Dr Tony Tan. I thought that Dr Tan Cheng Bock would not do well as firstly he served as an MP under the PAP’s banner and secondly he didn’t really directly manage an organisation of $100 million assets. He is merely a non-operational director.
Nevertheless, I believed that his multi-culturalism message hits home rather well with the minorities races. Many of the Malay and Indian Singaporeans felt marginalised especially when we started to bring in many foreigners of different nationalities.
For example, the Malay nationality’s representation in the population decreased from 17% to 13% recently due to the fresh intake of new citizens from India, China, Philippines and Myamar. Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s message probably provided them hope that at last there will be someone powerful high up who will look into their needs.
Moreover, those who did not favour Mr Tan Jee Say’s aggressive brand of campaigning probably opted for someone who is not so aligned with the ruling party and yet is capable of taking care of the country’s coffers.
Overall, I thought that the Presidential election campaigning frenzy mirrored that of the recent General Election’s. Many people went to watch the rallies and Mr Tan Jee Say’s crowd was by far the most attended at 30, 000. This is also in line with most of SDP or WP’s rally crowd size during the recent GE.
More importantly, there seemed to be a certain section of the population that has turned very vocal in the way they supported the opposition candidates. They are not afraid to show their support vocally and even posted online who they are going to vote. For example, the Facebook page of “Support Tan Jee Say for President” has garnered close to a thousand supporters at the height of the campaigning period.
It is believed that such open support for opposition candidates will continue to flourish and many people are already talking of a tougher fight for Parliamentary seats during the next 2016 General Election.
In fact, some parties are already looking for credible candidates and fervently preparing the ground in five years’ time.
As Singapore let the dust settled after the Presidential Election fever, more sombre news await us in the near future. We are entering into a dangerous period of economic turmoil as the country may enter into a technical recession soon. We already have chaled a negative growth for the previous quarter and the next quarter looks ominously pessimistic.
If Singapore enters into a technical recession, we may be in for a rough time when companies decide to trim staff – this trend will be similar to the one we experienced during the global financial crisis in 2008.
Let us hope that the newly-appoined President Dr Tony Tan will not be called upon so fast to unlock our state’s reserves as the previous President Nathan did in 2008.
It will be a bad warning sign if Dr Tony Tan is appointed the new President and immediately usher in a period of recession for the country.
Written by: Gilbert Goh
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