Tan Kin Lian started off well in the race and would have lured the opposition and moderate votes away from the PAP camp. Then Tan Jee Say got into the game and like the mythological Siren, he seduced away voters from the former NTUC Income CEO. All is fair in love, war and politics. This is a game of high political and personal stakes - salary, responsibility, foot-in-the-door opposition influence, and the future of the form and function of the presidency. Everyone has to be "mature adults" about the competition in the presidential elections as Tan Jee Say mentioned during the TOC Presidential Face to Face forum and CNA's Meet the Candidates.
From the way Tan Jee Say presented himself since Nomination Day when his supporters booed away the PAP proxy, Tony Tan, the PAP and the public would expect a confrontational populist president if he is elected into Office. Expect brinkmanship and the stubborn PAP ignoring whatever the SDP-backed candidate might advise from his seat in the Istana. For the Cabinet, to treat a former civil servant who joined the SDP camp as the president would be a humiliating slap in their face. Furthermore, frankly, Tan Jee Say does not appear to have the composure and class to be a president. He was visibly upset with Tony Tan during the TOC forum, and Goh Chok Tong's former Principal Private Secretary actually raised his voice and pointed his finger at Tony Tan. Also during his CNA debate, Tan Jee Say stumbled during his opening statement. Right from the start he dropped the ball, although to be fair, chastised by public opinion, he was not so easily angered by then compared to the TOC forum outburst.
Tan Jee Say boasted his illustrious private sector employment. However, his employment history was questioned and Tan Jee Say later clarified that he was not involved in the demise of Peregrine or AIB Govett. This explanation was just like he was not involved in the Marxist Conspiracy although he was the top aide to Goh Chok Tong, a DPM in 1987. Certainly the former civil servant who struck out on his own was scrutinised and there might have been deliberate falsehood against him as part of the campaigning. However, Tan Jee Say was oddly quiet about the allegations that he was managed out of Standard Chartered and that he was shunned by the banking industry since 2006.
The Only Tan
In contrast, Tan Kin Lian is more amicable and less confrontational. He smiles often, is more casual in his appearance and reasoning compared to his competition. He wore batik during the TOC forum, is often seen in his casual high-five tee to emphasis his people-oriented branding. He is more of the people's president rather than an opposition's president. He stressed during his campaigning that while it is not within his constitutional powers, he would suggest a state pension fund and an added HDB grant for NSmen i.e. he knows his limits and does not go into esoteric debates like disbanding Temasek or debunking the Marxist Conspiracy. He goes for the heartland issues right away. More down-to-earth, more to the heartbeat of Singaporeans uncertain of their lot in life under the PAP government.
He is more accommodating and although his feel of socio-political moods is not there as seen from the TOC forum, this is compensated by his eagerness to help. He seemed more grassroot in his style and that would be a plus. Nobody should forget that he stood up and spoke up during the Lehman crisis at Hong Lim Park for those who were burnt. It is only one incident, one instance, his critics might voice. Indisputable allegation, but it was his big intervention in being the voice. Where was Tan Jee Say or for that matter, Tony Tan or Tan Cheng Bock, then? That demonstrated that he was concerned about people's money being safe and not risked away.
Furthermore, Tan Kin Lian helmed NTUC Income for 30 years. Tan Jee Say is a job hopper in comparison, perhaps unfairly presented if we were in a non-election period but fair in an election, someone who is not sure of what he wants. The stereotypical government scholar who cannot survive outside of his cushy fast-tracked government sector as critics like to gossip about. During Tan Kin Lian's leadership of Income, the NTUC leader grew Income to the large cooperative it is today, like or loath his leadership style. While the president does not have the mandate to do with the reserves as he pleased, his track record of prudence in Income is assuring and he views the reserves as both insurance and investment. Not something for the opposition to bargain with the executive and legislative.
Come 27 August, nothing as changed and I'm still doing a high-five for one particular Tan.
Presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian said he encountered two low points in his race to Istana, and both of them involved fellow candidate Tan Jee Say.
Speaking at a news conference, Mr Tan said the first low point was when Mr Tan Jee Say applied for a certificate of eligibility to become a candidate in the presidential election.
This allegedly took place after he invited Mr Tan Jee Say to be part of his think tank.
The second low point was when Mr Tan Jee Say received his certificate of eligibility.
Mr Tan Kin Lian said one of the criteria to qualify for the certificate is that the individual has to head a company with at least $100 million in paid-up capital, and he says Mr Tan Jee Say did not qualify in this area.
Mr Tan Kin Lian also shared two high points in his campaign.
The first was when he found out that many people are supporting him in the election.
Another high point was when his strategic team came up with the message for his campaign, which is to be the voice of the people, and the five values of positive attitude, public service, courage, fairness and honesty.