SINGAPORE: Former presidential hopeful Tan Cheng Bock has called on the Government to make the upcoming Presidential Election an open election.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Friday (Mar 31), he asked if it was correct to make the upcoming election, which must be held by August, a reserved one.
He pointed out that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had advised the Prime Minister to count from President Wee Kim Wee in looking at the new electoral process.
“In all my 26 years in Parliament, we have always referred to Mr Ong Teng Cheong as the first elected President,” he said. “Even the commission’s report contains a statement referring to President Ong as the first Elected President.”
He invited the Government to explain whether the AGC’s interpretation is correct, or to check with the courts to verify its accuracy.
“I am concerned that our EP will always be tainted with the suspicion that the reserved election of 2017 was introduced to prevent my candidacy.”
Dr Tan, 76, ran for the last Presidential Election in 2011. He garnered 738,311 (34.85 per cent) of a total of 2,156,389 valid votes, losing to incumbent President Tony Tan Keng Yam by just 7,382 votes. The other two candidates were Mr Tan Jee Say and Mr Tan Kin Lian.
Last March, Dr Tan announced that he would again contest the next Presidential Election. But changes to the Constitution last November determined that the next election – to be held in September this year – will be reserved for Malay candidates.
The move to safeguard multi-racial representation in the Presidency, which was first mooted in a 183-page report submitted by a Constitutional Commission reviewing the Elected Presidency, raised some concerns about choosing a candidates based on race instead of merit. However, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was “not tokenism” as minority candidates will have to meet the same criteria as everyone else.
After the report was submitted last August, Dr Tan wrote in a Facebook post that members of the public should not “jump to conclusions” that the proposed changes were intended to prevent him from running in the next Presidential Election.
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has also said the changes to the Elected Presidency were not targeted at any individuals.