Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

PE2023 Rants

This isn’t a political blog. However, in this current run up to the Presidential Election 2023, I cannot resist sharing some rants.

The first time ever our Elected Presidency ever had a legitimate competition was in 2011. Tan Cheng Bock garnered 34.85% of the votes, just a hair shy of the 35.20% won by the candidate endorsed by the ruling government, Tony Tan.

This year, Tharman Shanmugaratnam has been quite popular, despite being establishment-endorsed. Many people thought he was suited for the job of Prime Minister. Interesting fact, he has been the Designated Survivor, though unlike the popular TV drama, he was left out of the action for quite the opposite reasons.

Unfortunately, 2023 looks like another election where it seems we have little legitimate alternatives to consider. The two other candidates, Tan Kin Lian and Ng Kok Song, are presenting themselves so badly that they’re spoiling their own chances.

When nomination day came and went by, I felt some reversal in terms of my views of the candidate.

I had thought Ng Kok Song was likeable, seemed genuine, and presented himself well as being suited for the role of the President. Since nomination, however, I get the strong sense that he’s really about putting up a wayang show. I understand campaigning is a bit about wayang, but you shouldn’t wayang too much, at least not to the extent that your sincerity comes to be questioned. I now feel a bit sus about Ng Kok Song. His campaign strategy that relies on social media to reach out to the younger generation not only doesn’t resonate with me, but also tells me he is a bit disconnected from ordinary people.

On the other hand, I thought Tharman isn’t putting much effort into this campaign. What is it with the pineapple? I mean, the logos of Tan Kin Lian and Ng Kok Song had meaning. The pineapple seems to be some random clipart chosen by an intern, and the meaning behind it is like something scrapped up in a class assignment. It seems lame. I am quite disappointed.

It seems to me like Tharman’s strategy is to just lay low. The other two candidates will shoot themselves in their own feet and campaign themselves out of the election. No marks for effort, but this may legit work. The other two are a bit disillusioned. One of them, in particular, seems to have unsound mind.

To me, the one that is totally damaging his own campaign is Tan Kin Lian. The way he handles questions from reporters is a total fail. The way he treats people around him, even including his wife, is unbefitting of any public figure who needs the respect of the people he is meant to serve.

The whole saga over the “pretty girls” matter seems to be a ball in own goal kind of situation. I, and I think many others, have likely forgotten about the incident. The only reason why I am reminded of it now is solely because of his own constant mention of it. When he wants to talk about how it is a smear campaign against him, it seems like this is entirely his campaign to smear others over something that is entirely his own doing. He totally deserved to lose his deposit in PE2011. While the chance of that repeating itself is inherently lower this time around, he seems determined to throw away his deposit again.

I am disappointed that Tan Cheng Bock has come in to lend support to Tan Kian Lian. His reason for doing so is on the sole basis of needing an independent president that is not endorsed by the establishment. It is just as important to evaluate the alternative candidates on their own merits, not to vote an alternative on the basis that you don’t like someone.

This isn’t too different from Ng Kok Song’s motivation to stand. He said he was worried that PE2023 would be a walkover if George Goh, another potential candidate, would not qualify to stand. George Goh did not qualify, and not withstanding that Tan Kian Lian had made it clear that he was running, surely you need far better reasons than wanting to avoid a walkover.

So we have three choices:

  • A safe choice. Although closely linked to the ruling party, he has carried himself well. He’s playing it safe. I wish he’d put in more effort to win the election with the respect of everyone. Oh, isn’t his campaign slogan something about that?
  • An alternative that is all about wayang, standing for election just so that there is a non-partisan alternative. He’s like the backup if you can’t have the first choice, but otherwise undeserving.
  • One that seems to be not just disillusioned, but even perhaps of unsound mind. He is Singapore’s Donald Trump.

The President has an important role. However, let’s not get carried away. His or her independent and discretionary powers are kind of limited. For example, several key matters require consensus with the council of presidential advisors, of which the president does not have more than 50% influence of its composition. If the president decides to act contrary to the advise of the council of presidential advisors, then parliament can overrule the president with a two-third majority vote.

So you tell me, who actually has the final say.

The best case scenario for Singapore is still for us to have a good, clean, and effective government, and a president who can work alongside the government for the good of all Singaporeans.

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