Tharman issues call to ‘avoid politicising’ PE2023 following Tan Cheng Bock’s endorsement of Tan Kin Lian

"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."

Matthias Ang | August 28, 2023, 02:15 PM


WhatsappPresidential candidate Tharman Shanmugaratnam has urged his fellow candidates to avoid politicising the Presidential Elections.

In response to media queries on the endorsement of fellow hopeful Tan Kin Lian by Tan Cheng Bock, a spokesperson for Tharman's team said on Aug. 27:

"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."

Tan Cheng Bock: endorsing Tan Kin Lian in my personal capacity

On Aug. 27, two former presidential candidates for the 2011 election, Tan Cheng Bock and Tan Jee Say, appeared at a press conference at People's Park to endorse Tan Kin Lian for the presidency.

According to Tan Cheng Bock, he and Tan See Jay were there as "comrades" as they share a common vision to have an "independent president".

Tan Cheng Bock, who is currently the Chairman of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), also clarified that he was here in his "personal capacity" as a PE2011 candidate because "Singaporeans want transparency and also accountability."

He said that the presidency is "apolitical" and that he was not present as a politician.

In response to a question from the media about whether his endorsement might impact PSP's performance in a future election, Tan Cheng Bock said there is a risk to every decision.

"I want to believe that Singaporean voters in the coming years will view how PSP performed and we will perform to the best of our ability," he said.

Ng Kok Song: Endorsements confuse a Presidential Election with a General Election

The endorsements were labelled by Presidential candidate Ng Kok Song on the same day as a "very unhealthy and worrisome development" and a "polarisation between some members of the opposition and the government".

He added:

"The people concerned are confusing the people of Singapore. Confusing between a Presidential Election and the General Election."

Ng also stressed that the Presidential Election is about unifying the people of Singapore, and that the President should be a "unifying force".

He further advised political parties to wait for the General Election if they wish to politicise an election, adding that the endorsement of Tan Kin Lian by opposition members goes "against the spirit of the Constitution".

"That is why I emphasised time and again that the presidential election should be by candidates who are non-partisan. Non-partisan means no party affiliation, no party endorsement."

On Aug. 28, Ng reiterated his criticism of the endorsements by describing Tan Cheng Bock’s endorsement as "an act of dishonour, disrespect, contempt for the office of the presidency", and further accused the event of mixing the presidency with “gutter politics”.

"I will not stand for politicians making a mockery of the presidency," he said.

Salleh Marican: S'poreans should "look beyond partisan politics"

Aug. 27 also saw 2017 presidential hopeful Mohamed Salleh Marican urge Singaporeans to "look beyond partisan politics" in response to the endorsements.

Salleh, who is also one of Ng's assenters, referred to Article 19(2)(f) of the Constitution, which states that a person shall only be qualified to be elected as president if he is not a member of any political party on the date of his nomination for election.

To Salleh, the role of the president is "a check and balance" on the government, which was formed after a General Election (GE), and to protect Singaporeans against "reckless spending and corrupt officials".

He said:

"The government is led by the prime minister and Cabinet members who are selected from members of the parliament (MPs). These MPs are representatives of the political parties that contest in GE. If the president is beholden to those political parties for endorsement or support, I am concerned that he will not be able to discharge his constituional duties faithfully in the interests of Singaporeans".

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