Despite the voluminous criticisms against him in the social media, the former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan still managed to scrape through with the slimmest of margin in the presidential election to become the seventh president of Singapore. Dr Tony Tan won by a minuscule margin of 0.34% or 7269 votes. With the massive support from trade unions and other establishment bodies and the tacit endorsement of the PAP Government, Dr Tony Tan's narrow victory can be said to be a irony of fate against a more worthy opponent Dr Tan Cheng Bock. There is a Chinese saying befitting Dr Tan Cheng Bock: Although defeated but still honourable (虽败犹荣). He had put in massive efforts in his campaign and not only his supporters but many Singaporeans will be extremely disappointed that he has been deprived of victory by the slimmest margin imaginable. Fate has been unkind to him for he would have made an excellent president with his independence of character.
Willy-nilly we are now saddled, through the intricacies of fate, with a new elected president whose independence of the PAP Government is never reassuring, given his PAP background. Will he turn out to be another S R Nathan whose tenure has been anything but illustrious. Of course Dr Tony Tan is the PAP tacitly-endorsed candidate and nothing pleases PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet colleagues more than his election as president as this removes a source of anxiety of a possible turbulent relationship with the presidency if any of the other three candidates was elected.
In his campaign Dr Tony Tan portrayed himself as a candidate with financial expertise and vast experiences in the corporate world and is the best person with a steady hand to handle the national reserves. He was careful to steer clear of problematic political and social issues that the three other candidates promised they would take up with the PAP Government, if elected. Dr Tan Cheng Bock's proposal to move the PMO and Cabinet Office out of the Istana particulary irked him. So could he be expected to initiate any issue with the PAP Government that will bring benefit to Singaporeans? His pet answer is that the president's power is circumsribed by the Constitution and that the centre of power is the PAP Government. So it will be interesting to watch how Dr Tony Tan will perform as the elected president of Singapore for the next six years.
It is surpising that Mr Tan Jee Say secured only 25.04% of the votes which could mean that a good percentage of the anti-establishment votes had gone to Dr Tan Cheng Bock. He would have made a good independent president considering his bold character.
Mr Tan Kin Lian managed to secure only 4.91% of the votes which could mean that he had neither pro-PAP nor anti-establishment voters' support. Right from the beginning he had shown concern that he could lose his deposit but the fact that he still entered the fray was something quite incomprehensible. But does he realise that he was in fact playing the role of a spoiler? His 4.91% of the votes could have gone to Dr Tan Cheng Bock which would have made all the difference for him to win the election. This is a guilt that Mr Tan Kin Lian will have to live down.
Finally, the message to the PAP Government is clear. Dr Tony Tan only secured 35.19% of the votes which means that 25% of the 60% of the pro-PAP votes in the last General Election has deserted him. With only one third of the electorate voting for him, it shows clearly that Singapore voters do not want a pro-PAP president. How the PAP leaders are going to reconcile this is something which they have to live with. Quite evidently, Dr Tony Tan just does not have the moral authority to represent all Singaporeans as their president.