SINGAPORE: Former presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock on Friday (Mar 11) confirmed he plans to contest the next Presidential Election.
Speaking to the media at a press conference at One Commonwealth, Dr Tan said it was "timely" to reveal his decision 17 months before the elections so that he can start preparations and answer to the voters that supported him in the last election.
"I never take my voters for granted - I earn my votes. And for that reason, I have to prepare. Seventeen months is not too long."
RUNNING AGAIN: Former Presidential Candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock announces that he will contest in the next Presidential Election. The former People's Action Party MP lost the 2011 election to President Tony Tan Keng Yam by 7,382 votes - or 0.35 percentage points - in a four-way contest. http://bit.ly/1UX6TzcPosted by 938LIVE on Thursday, 10 March 2016
He said that having previously been the Member of Parliament for Ayer Rajah, he was "a little bit lost" when having to campaign around the whole country in the 2011 Presidential Election.
While he said his new team is "very prepared", he added he would still have to work hard.
In the last Presidential Election in 2011, Dr Tan 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.
The next Presidential Election must be held by August next year.
ANNOUNCEMENT NOT MEANT TO PRE-EMPT QUALIFYING CRITERIA: DR TAN
The announcement comes amid a review of the Elected Presidency system in Singapore, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in Parliament in January.
The review – undertaken by a Constitutional Commission chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon – will cover the qualifying criteria for candidacy as well as the framework governing the exercise of the President’s custodial powers.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Dr Tan encouraged Singaporeans to submit their views to the Commission to “ensure that we have a Elected Presidency system that will enable us to elect a truly independent and effective President”.
However, Dr Tan insisted his decision to announce his intention to run for the presidency was not timed to pre-empt any potential decisions by the Commission, such as restrictions on age.
The 75-year-old said he did not think age was an issue. As a doctor, he takes care of his health by watching what he eats and exercising, he said. But he added that mental health was also important.
"Any one of us who develops a mental deficiency should be honourable enough to step out of any political or presidential election ... If I am not good (mentally), I would not stand. Because I would be doing you people a disservice."
He added that while he will submit feedback for the review of the Elected Presidency system, he would leave the decision to the Commission without speculating on the outcome.
Asked what he would do if he were to be excluded from the election based on the new qualifying criteria, he said: "I will take it step by step."
However, he said age should not hinder his bid for the Presidency.
"Look, I'm a doctor. I take care of my health," he said. "The thing that will be against you is not age. It's your mental state. Anyone of us who develop mental deficiency should be honourable and step out of any political or presidential election."
PRESIDENT SHOULD BE APOLITICAL, SPEAK UP ABOUT ISSUES
Dr Tan said that given his years of corporate and banking experience, he was confident of being able to do the job of President and said "it does not matter" who else would step up to contest the elections.
Asked what kind of president he would like to be, Dr Tan said he would like to unite different groups in society by supporting programmes to ensure there is more integration.
"We must not take multiracialism for granted, and I will still continue to promote that," he said, citing the integration of new citizens as another factor to consider.
He also said that he hoped that the various political parties could put aside their differences and work together.
"We are one family, we are one Singapore," he said.
"If I become President, I (must) represent all Singaporeans: Rich, poor, political differences, all ... Then I can become a unifying figure."
For that to happen, Dr Tan said he could not be "combative", or the system would fall apart. He said it was important for the President to use "soft power" to speak up about important issues.
"I will be fearless in what I want to do, and I will make sure that what I think is good for you people, I will bring it up ... that is the role of the President."