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Friday, June 24, 2005 

Presidential Elections & General Elections
When, How, and Who? Just Insights from the Inside…

What we know so far? We know that 16 people have collected the forms. Some of these people are grassroots leaders and one of them once took the form for President Nathan during last elections. SM Goh has publicly endorsed President Nathan to stand for elections again. Many other names are mentioned such as DPM Tony Tan, Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi, DPM Jayakumar (least likely) and Permanent Secretary, Lim Siong Guan. As they are the most profile contenders, the others are left by the sidelines.

Will it be an uncontested election? This is quite straight-forward: NO. Reasons are as follows: Presidential elections are a symbol of democratic and legitimacy power. Having an uncontested election will only draw foreign criticism (like the 1999 presidential election). More importantly, this election will be closely linked to the general elections as if this is a walkover, perception of democratic fairness will be lowered. This will work against the ruling PAP government in the next GE and will give an opportunity for the oppositions to poke at. Knowing PAP’s kiasu-ness, they will never allow any advantage to the oppositions. Oppositions know this as well, so they will send people to collection the presidential forms even if they know they will not win or even get into the nomination stage. But this is just to provide a topic for the oppositions to counter PAP. “See! Mr ABC has the right credentials but PAP blocked his nomination as the President. What kind of democratic society do we have? Don’t let PAP control your General Elections vote” This might be one possible argument we will see in the next GE.

So who will contest? In the first Presidential Elections (in 1993), PAP sent a strong candidate in then DPM Ong Teng Cheong against a relatively unknown, Chua Kim Yeow. Results? Ong Teng Cheong won by a slim majority of 59%, when everyone expects a landslide victory. Since then, PAP has been cautious about sending someone with strong party affiliated candidates.

Bear in mind another note. Implicitly, the President cannot have political party affiliations this implies that nominees have to quit their party position before standing for elections. This also means that if PAP sends a Minister to contest, the Minister have to quit his post first. Thus, it is either PAP is willing to part with that Minister or he is retiring soon. And since he is not going to be an MP anymore, there have to be By-Elections for that vacancy. Eureka! One more clue to when the GE is going to be.

The criteria are so stringent that not many can afford to take part. He has to be a Minister, Perm Sec, Chairman of a Stat Board or CEO/Director of a company of more than $100 million paid up capital. Opposition will not be able to find a person who has a company of more that $100M. In the whole Singapore, maybe there are less than 5 people with non-political affiliations heading a $100 million company. So let me rank my predictions:

1) Perm Sec Lim Siong Guan (who has recently stepped down as the Head of Civil Service. How coincidental!)

2) DPM Tony Tan (Stepping down in July 2005. How coincidental again!)
3) Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi (Partly because he is Malay and our last Malay President is our First one!)
4) President Nathan (I think he will step down and that is his wish, I doubt he wants to run the risk of dying in office. Not that he is in ill health but he is already in his 80s!)

Who is Lim Siong Guan? Mr Lim is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance. He was the Head of the Singapore Civil Service until 31 March 2005, and has been Permanent Secretary for Special Duties in the Prime Minister's Office and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, the Public Service Division in the Prime Minister's Office, and the Ministry of Defence. He was the first Principal Private Secretary to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr Lim is Chairman of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, Chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore, Deputy Chairman of Temasek Holdings (the holding company for government investments), and a Member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Seems like he has all the powerful backing and credentials to be the President. Critics always say that the post as a President is a politics gift to reward loyal cadres of the state or to keep them silent on state secrets. (By the way, I’m not the critic.) Devan Nair, former President, was once the loyal lieutenant of Lee Kuan Yew and help to start NTUC. Rewarded with his good works but lands up on the wrong end, see (http://www.singapore-window.org/sw99/90329gm.htm). Critics also argued that Ong Teng Cheong, then DPM, might be a growing threat to Lee Hsien Loong for the PM position. President Nathan was the Director and Head of the Internal Security Branch (whoah, lots of secrets in there). For Lim Siong Guan, his position in Temasek, GIC and MAS might be indicative on something which I’ll leave it to you imaginations.

How is Presidential Elections related to General Elections? If PAP decides to send a Minister for Presidential Elections and gets elected, they are one MP short. So they will have a By-Election for that seat. Too taxing to have 3 elections within the space of two years? Maybe so. They might wish to combine the By Election with the GE and safe the troubles. The Remaking Committee headed by Vivian Balakrishnan put a successful recommendation to announce the boundaries for GE at least 3 to 6 months ahead of polling day. So that leaves the time frame between January 2006 to June 2007. My prediction would be either June 2006 or December 2006. More news next time, as this article is getting too long.

Next Week's Article: The True Story Behind Dr Balaji's Fight Against HIV

Wah steady leh u. Neber thought that you will actually write it! Very informative!

Never knew who is Lim Siong Guan, but then most of the time S'poreans don't know who is in charge of all the Stats boards and GLCs.

But i got a question, if any MP quit before the general election a by election have to be held. If the person in question belong to a GRC, the by-election will be for all candidates in the GRC or just for the 1 seat that the person vacant. I would thought is all seats, for there will be problems if a opposition got election in a PAP GRC...

Haha...you are most welcomed.

If a MP from a GRC quits, the whole GRC along with all the MPs in the GRC must contest. So if one Minister is taken out, and he can only be replaced with a ordinary MP (since all the Ministers are already has their constituencies). Implicitly, it will weaken that GRC so PAP will always try to avoid such situation.

didnt happen in jalan besar after choo wee kiang resigned ...

plus this time it's very close to GE

so maybe no by-election?

Very informative.

Thank you also for the gracious link.

It is good that we use the blogsphere as a tool to educate, fad as it is right now.

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