Lack of opposition votes costs him

By Benita Aw Yeong and Zul Othman

The 40 per cent opposition vote in the May General Election (GE) did not translate into support for losing presidential candidate Tan Jee Say yesterday.

He got 25.04 per cent of the votes, coming in third.

The winner, Dr Tony Tan got 35.19 per cent. Dr Tan Cheng Bock who came in second got 34.85 per cent. MrTan Kin Lian came in last with 4.91 per cent.

Speaking to reporters at Bedok Stadium around 1.30am today before the results were announced, MrTan Jee Say, a former senior civil servant, said that if there was to be a winner other than him, he preferred Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

Mr Tan said it had been a "good fight" and that the trust gained from his supporters will "never be misplaced".

He also believed that his seemingly confrontational image had indeed cost him votes.

Mr Tan added he wished he had three months to campaign for his presidential bid.

"You can scrutinise candidates better. I am not confrontational. That's an image that has been created. I had not gone on the streets to throw stones."

People who voted for the Opposition in the GE would not simply vote for a former opposition man in the Presidential Election (PE), said Dr Reuben Wong, an assistant professor at the Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore.

"With the media blitz and debates that have been taking place, Singaporeans have been made to think more about the role of the Elected President," Dr Wong said.

Sensible voters

He believed that Singaporeans were sensible enough to differentiate between the two kinds of elections: The GE, which emphasises party platforms and policies, and the PE which stresses ceremonial and custodial roles.

"Singaporeans know that you don't vote for a president for the purpose of performing checks on the Government, which was a platform Tan Jee Say campaigned very much upon," Dr Wong said.

Associate Professor Cherian George at the Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information said Mr Tan's candidacy probably worked to rival Dr Tan Cheng Bock's advantage.

"Mr Tan Jee Say might have directed votes which did not favour Dr Tony Tan towards Dr Tan Cheng Bock, because he came across as too confrontational or too young," said Dr George.

Dr Wong added that Mr Tan also lost because of his inability to convince voters that he was above party politics.

The 57-year-old stressed throughout his campaign that he did not have "emotional ties" to the People's Action Party (PAP), having never been a member of it.

But this might not have worked to his advantage, Dr Wong asserted.

"In addition to the enduring image that he is confrontational, he couldn't convincingly answer to the charge that presidents should not be partisan and be above party politics.

"In my opinion, he wasn't able to assure voters that he would not discriminate against the PAP," he said.

But Dr George said Singaporeans should not forget who Mr Tan was up against.

"Dr Tony Tan is a household name, and Dr Tan Cheng Bock relatively well-known.

"To even get a single percentage point away from these candidates is something that is extremely difficult," he said.

The father of four had been optimistic about his chances throughout Polling Day.

Earlier, after casting his vote at St Stephen's School at Siglap View, Mr Tan felt that his views had "resonated with the people".

The intermittent downpour yesterday did little to dampen the spirits of Mr Tan, who commented that he saw the showers as a blessing.

He added that his wife was his lucky charm.

The Oxford University graduate studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics on a government scholarship before joining the civil service for 11 years.

He later joined the private finance sector, and is currently an investment advisor. He stood in this year's GE as a candidate with the opposition Singapore Democratic Party. So will we see him in the next election?

Said Mr Tan: "I will have to talk to my supporters and see what role I can play."

This article was first published in The New Paper.


COMMENTS