Yup, you read right. Say what you like, but don’t you think the only candidate without any real political shadow hanging over him did badly in the recent presidential election precisely because he didn’t and doesn’t any real political affiliation?
I’m referring to Mr Tan Kin Lian who lost his deposit because he didn’t get the 12.5% of the votes needed to retrieve his $48,000. Why, he didn’t even get 6.25%! He got under 5%, leading to jokes about “low 5″! And this despite the fact that he’s been visible for years since he quit NTUC Income — online and offline at Speakers Corner at Hong Lim Park.
What’s so different about him from the other three competitors?
IMHO, I think it’s political affiliation. Tan Kin Lian really had none, never mind the fact — which few people knew, really and truly — that he was a PAP assistant branch secretary at some time in his NTUC career.
By contrast, all the competition had overt political connections, never mind if everyone of them strenuously tried to distance himself from, if not entirely disown those connections.
Take Tan Jee Say. He was as recently as May a failed election candidate standing under the banners of the Singapore Democratic Party. He resigned from SDP, as he must, to contest the PE.
He and his running mates – who failed in their joint bid for the Holland-Buona Vista group representation constituency — were very much in evidence in his PE campaigning. The ever-delectable Nicole Seah was there as were other National Solidarity Party luminaries. OK, all in their personal capacity, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. But you get the picture.
It was the same for Tan Cheng Bock. OK, he too said he was his own man. Independent. Above politics ad nauseam. But come lah, he was a PAP man for decades and successfully contested countless elections wearing the PAP badge.
Even all the evidence he proudly displayed to show his independence — speaking out against the Nominated MP scheme, getting free parking in HDB carparks on Sundays et al — were ironically achieved while he was a PAP MP, not because he was independent loner Tan Cheng Bock.
He spoke in parliament and was listened to because he was an important long-serving PAP backbencher who scored the highest percentage of votes in his final election — which incidentally he did not because he was just Tan Cheng Bock, independent but because he was a PAP candidate through and through, white on white.
Given the decades’ long association that he has had with the PAP, it would take decades, not months or a couple of years for the public to view him solely as indie Tan Cheng Bock without also seeing the PAP association in everything he does.
So, guess what? I think he was given a handsome outing because voters inherently associated him with the PAP and his success in garnering almost 35 per cent of the votes is due more to his PAP DNA than he was sweet Mr Independent.
Some observers say that Tan Cheng Bock attracted opposition support. I would like to suggest it’s not so much opposition support per se as voters who had voted against PAP in the general election, ands having taught the PAP “a lesson”, deciding they would rotate the support to a candidate with PAP cred.
As for Tony Tan, he got the solid PAP supporter vote all right. Although he too, in the mood of times, tried to move away from the PAP banyan, he was never vociferously anti or ungrateful about his PAP background. And he is to be respected for that.
And the lesson to be learnt from the recent pressie election? If you want to get anywhere in the next PE in 2017, you better have some political name recognition, overt or at arm’s length. Otherwise, be prepared to lose your deposit!