Relief after the drama
Dr Tony Tan's day started at 10.45am as he stopped at Nanyang Girls' High School . -TNP
AFTER going without a contest for 18 years since 1993, this Presidential Election finished in dramatic fashion.
A recount had to be called at about 1.15am when DrTony Tan finished ahead of Dr Tan Cheng Bock with a razor-thin margin of about 8,000 votes.
With a winning margin of less than 2 per cent, a recount was necessary.
At 4.20am, the final results were in. Dr Tony Tan won by a margin of 7,269 votes. He got 35.19 per cent of the more than 2.1 million valid votes cast.
Dr Tan Cheng Bock received 34.85 per cent, Mr Tan Jee Say got 25.04 per cent and Mr Tan Kin Lian finished with 4.91 per cent of the valid votes.
Speaking to reporters at the Elections Department this morning, Dr Tony Tan, 71, said: "I'm extremely happy to be given this opportunity to serve Singapore and Singaporeans once again, now as the Elected President. It has been a strenuous campaign."
The recount was not unexpected as political observers had been certain the fight would not only be keen, but also close.
National University of Singapore political scientist Reuben Wong said: "I knew this was going to be close, but not this close.
"It's very hard for anybody to get 50 per cent or more of the votes.
"When you look at the kinds of people who would vote for Tan Cheng Bock, Tony Tan, Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian, the big solid block that Tony Tan will get is from the PAP (People's Action Party) die-hards. So he has kept his - probably 30 per cent of the votes.
"But the people who would vote for opposition candidates, they don't have one single figure to coalesce around. They have Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian.
"Tan Cheng Bock is the only one who would have crossed party lines."
While the recount was necessary, and the winning margin was slim, overseas votes did not become a factor.
Dr Wong said: "For the overseas votes to matter, they must make up 5 to 10 per cent of total votes. Right now, they make up only 5,000 votes." Has the passion
Dr Tony Tan's supporters at Toa Payoh stadium were jubilant at the news that their candidate had won.
Despite the earlier announcement of a recount, Mrs Joyce Neo, 48, a homemaker and Dr Tony Tan supporter, was unfazed.
She said: "He has the passion for the nation and the credentials. Running for presidency must have been his calling, otherwise he would not have come back (into politics). "
Political observers had argued that Dr Tony Tan's past political affiliations could hurt his chances.
But collectively, Dr Tony Tan and Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who had the closest links to the PAP, garnered more than 70 per cent of all valid votes.
Dr George said Dr Tony Tan's win meant attempts by some candidates to portray him as being too close to the ruling party didn't work.
Results at both the parliamentary and presidential elections suggest Singaporeans are not ready to get rid of the PAP entirely, he said.
"The General Election, in a sense, showed that Singaporeans are quite good at having the cake and eating it too," said Dr George.
"They kept the Government that they believe can do the job but also elected a strong opposition team to check on it. This is a sophisticated electorate.
"It is not an electorate that behaves in a knee jerk or impulsive way.
"This doesn't mean that Singaporeans don't want a check on Government, I think it just means that they believe that a check can be imposed in other ways, they don't need the presidency to check on the Government."
Dr Wong saw it differently: "I think being linked to the PAP is still a disadvantage because people want to see a president who is not captive to any party. All the candidates, except Tan Jee Say, were actively trying to dissociate themselves from the ruling party."
But voters may not have picked their candidate based on former party affiliations but on their credentials. Dr George described Dr Tony Tan as the "most experienced man for the job" and a household name.
He added: "He would benefit from the biggest name recognition which I think is very important for an election of this size because it is extremely difficult for any candidate to reach 2.3 million voters.
"So he started out with a big advantage in that sense because he's household name."
NTU Assistant Professor Marko Skoric from the Wee Kim Wee School agreed, adding: "Dr Tony Tan has run his campaign from the position of a clear favourite to win the elections. The emphasis was on his experience and competence, and, of course, his visibility among the voters."
But in this election, voters also delivered a message, that they want the President to play a bigger role that cuts beyond the Constitution, said the political observers.
The observers said some voters want an activist president to perhaps reflect the rise of activism among the electorate.
While the Constitution spells out what the Head of State can do, it remains a "living document" as described by Dr Tony Tan.
And as society evolves, so too do laws of the land, reflecting the values and desires of the nation.
Yesterday, Dr Tony Tan day started at 10.45am as he stopped at Nanyang Girls' High School in Bukit Timah to cast his vote.
Later in the day, he bumped into fellow candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock at Admiralty Secondary School in Woodlands around 1.30pm.
Dr Tony Tan was leaving as Dr Tan Cheng Bock was resuming his visits of polling stations after taking a break at home.The two men shared a warm handshake and exchanged greetings.
Dr Tony Tan's campaign has not been smooth sailing. Even before the certificates of eligibility was issued, he was the target of online criticisms and allegations.
He said that although there had been "a little bit of strong statements made from time to time", he thinks that the campaign has been a dignified one overall.
"Exchanges have been made. But I think this is to be expected in the heat of the hustings...On the whole, it has been manageable. It sets a pattern for future campaigns," he said.
In his second presidential candidate broadcast on Aug 26, Dr Tony Tan had said: "I can tell you today that this campaign is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. But it has also been one of the most exciting!"
This article was first published in The New Paper.
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