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Electing a President different from MP: DPM Teo

DPM Teo Chee Hean is the third office-holder to speak on the presidential election. (Yahoo! file photo)DPM Teo Chee Hean is the third office-holder to speak on the presidential election. (Yahoo! file photo)

Singaporean voters need to remember that electing a President is different from choosing a Member of Parliament (MP), said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

He said that the upcoming Presidential election, which has to be held by end August this year, needs to be suitably dignified, and is not going to be like electing MPs in the recently-concluded 7 May polls.

"This is not the general election," he said. "When we are electing a Member of Parliament, you want somebody who is active and on the ground, and working with the residents," added DPM Teo, who was speaking at the official opening of a community hard court at Sengkang Community Hub on Sunday.

"He (the elected president) needs to be measured and considered, and at the same time, also be a unifying factor at a higher level for all Singaporeans," he continued.

DPM Teo is the latest office-holder to comment on the Presidential election, after former Senior Minister S. Jayakumar and Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam spoke previously to moderate public expectations of the President's role.

Last month, Professor Jayakumar responded to Presidential hopeful Tan Kin Lian's statements on what he would do if elected, explaining the need to address the "wrong expectations about the role of the President".

Minister Shanmugam later followed up with a statement, saying that the elected President has no role in advancing his policy agenda, and that his veto powers will be limited to specific areas such as the protection of past reserves and the appointments of key personnel.

"On all other matters, under the Constitution, the President must act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet," he said.

This year's election has seen a few Presidential hopefuls expressing interest as possible candidates.

Former People's Action Party (PAP) MP Tan Cheng Bock, who holds a strong grassroots record as MP for Ayer Rajah between 1980 and 2006, has confirmed his presidential bid.

However, according to reports, there has not been any clear indication that the PAP will be endorsing the 71-year-old's bid.

Other possible candidates for the Presidential office include former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian, 63, and GIC deputy chairman and executive director Tony Tan, 71, who said he will speak on the issue upon his return to Singapore from the US this week.

Incumbent President S R Nathan, 86, has also not announced if he will be seeking a third term.

Speaking further on the Presidential election, DPM Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, said that "we should conduct any presidential election campaign in a dignified way because this is after all the highest office in the land".

"I am glad to see that thus far, the various candidates that have put themselves forward have done so in this way. So I think we should maintain this kind of tone and make sure that the election is conducted in a dignified way."

When asked what he thought of the potential candidates thus far, DPM Teo said, "It's really not for me to comment. I shouldn't. It's for the voters to decide and make the correct choice on the person who will fulfill this very important role."

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