It could be said that the Presidential Elections Committee's (PEC) decision to give certificates of eligibility to four of the presidential hopefuls has come as a bit of surprise in terms of the timing and its liberal interpretation of the eligibility criteria. The four successful presidential hopefuls for the presidential election are former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan, doctor and former MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former NTUC Income CEO Mr. Tan Kin Lian and investment adviser Mr. Tan Jee Say. There were doubts that Mr. Tan Jee Say could not have met the eligibility criteria but that he has finally been able to qualify shows the liberality and progressive thinking of the PEC, which is a credit to its chairman and members.
If all four potential candidates seek nomination on 17 August, then Singaporeans will be presented with a rare spectacle of a four-cornered contest. Dr Tony Tan seems to lead with a substantial political advantage with the main stream media, especially the Straits Times, going on an overdrive in extolling has so-called merits as a potential president. He is in every respect a PAP Government-endorsed candidate, maybe one may like to describe it as tacitly but an endorsement nevertheless. He has also portrayed himself as eminently qualified, because of his so-called unique financial expertise and extensive administrative experience as a minister, to be elected as president by the Singapore electorate. He has been praised by PM Lee Hsien Loong as the most suitable candidate for president. So has also the Emeritus SM Goh Chok Tong heaped praise on Dr Tony Tan. Law Minister K. Shanmugam mentioned recently at an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) forum that the president can influence the PM if he is wise, knowledgeable, trusted and respected by the PM which prompted president hopeful Dr Tan Cheng Bock to interprete that only a Government-endorsed presidential candidate can wield influence with the PM. So how Dr Tony Tan is viewed by the Government as the next elected president is never in doubt.
Dr Tony Tan is also supported by the Tan Clan Federation and a number of trade unions, if not the NTUC itself. He is likely to be supported by pro-PAP voters who comprised 60.1 % of the voting electorate in the last General Election. But what percentage of support he gets will depend on whether Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr. Tan Kin Lian, both former PAP members, also receive support from the same pool of pro-PAP voters. It will be assumed that the 39.9 % of the anti-establishment votes will go to Mr. Tan Jee Say, a former Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) member who is contesting as an independent candidate. In the unlikely event that some of the anti-establishment votes would go to Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr. Tan Kin Lian, the number is unlikely to be significant to affect the prospect of Mr. Tan Jee Say.
The probable scenario is likely to be that no single candidate is going to win 50% or more of the votes to make him an outright winner. The deciding contest may be between Dr Tony Tan and Mr. Tan Jee Say. If the dilution of Dr Tony Tan's pro-PAP votes is not significantly large, he may have a better prospect of winning. But it is unlikely to be a shoo-in. Mr. Tan Jee Say's prospect of winning is equally strong if he gets the solid support of the anti-establishment votes.
We will know at the end of polling on 27 August if Singaporeans get a PAP-endorsed or an independent elected president.