We have been presented so far with three prospective candidates who have past connections with the PAP. One was a deputy prime minister, deputy chairman of GIC and chairman of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). Another was a PAP MP and the third a PAP branch office-bearer. So the electors were actually presented with a Hobson's choice. Now we have a fourth prospective candidate in the person of Mr. Tan Jee Say who has no past connection with the PAP and is a refreshing entrant in the presidential fray.
Mr. Tan Jee Say was a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate in the General Election in May but failed to capture the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in which he contested with his party comrades. He is said to have resigned from the SDP to contest the presidential election as an independent candidate. He has creditable credentials and there is every reason that he will succeed in getting qualified as a candidate.
Mr. Tan Jee Say stands out as a candidate truly independent of the PAP Government. In this way he stands a very good chance of garnering the anti-establishment votes. The other three candidates - Dr. Tony Tan, Dr. Tan Cheng Bock and Mr. Tan Kin Lian- will have to contend with one another for the pro-PAP votes. This is likely to be the scenario because the current electoral mood is still to shun the white (白色忌讳）(the white meaning the PAP) and may target candidates with past PAP connections.
The election of Mr. Tan Jee Say as president is likely to cause consternation to the PAP Government. Mr. Tan knows that as president he has very little executive powers except custodial responsibility on national reserves and he has to work within the constraints of the Constitution. For the first time in Singapore's history, PAP leaders will have the discomfiting experience of dealing with a president with opposition background. And there will no longer be a yes-man at their beck and call. Six years is a long time and there will be no guarantee that during this lengthy tenure of the president there will be complete harmony between the president and the PAP Government. So if Mr. Tan Jee Say could be disqualified as a candidate it will save the PAP Government untold discomforts, if not displeasures, in having to deal with a self-assertive and independent president. With the PAP any bizarre scenario is not an impossibility.
If Mr. Tan Jee Say is indeed elected president, it will be a celebratory occasion for true Singaporeans. It will show the political awakening of the people who dare to display displeasures to the so-called PAP democratic rule. In fact this is a continuing phenomenon from the General Election in May which witnessed the PAP's first defeat in the reputable Aljunied GRC and reduction of its total votes to 60.1%. There is no reason not to expect this electoral mood to continue in the presidential election.