‘We lost but we also won’: Tan Cheng Bock

Win or lose, some Singaporeans say they will continue to support Dr Tan Cheng Bock. (Yahoo! photo/Christine Choo)
Win or lose, some Singaporeans say they will continue to support Dr Tan Cheng Bock. (Yahoo! photo/Christine Choo)

Presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock may have lost the race but he is glad to have given Singaporeans a chance to take part in the Presidential Election, he said on Sunday morning.

"We lost but we also won. I have given you a chance to take part in a Presidential Election. It's very important because for too long, no election," said Dr Tan, who lost the election by the narrowest of margins to former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan.

He garnered 737,128 valid votes to Dr Tony Tan's 744,398, which resulted in the latter becoming Singapore's seventh president with a margin of just 0.34 per cent of total votes cast.

Speaking to about 100 supporters who had stayed on at Jurong East Stadium until the results were announced at 4.30 am, Dr Tan Cheng Bock added, "So now I hope this election has set Singaporeans thinking, the responsibility in choosing somebody they like, not somebody they endorse, so this is something I find quite good.'

And as the 71 -year-old, who presented himself as a "unifying figure for Singapore", thanked his supporters in his short two-minute spech and told them to return home to rest, he assured them he will continue to engage Singaporeans.

"We must be together, right? In our own special way, we must always be a family, okay? ... Please go and rest, we'll come back again," said Dr Tan, to cheers and applause from his supporters.

It was a day of wild swings for the non-executive chairman of Chuan Hup Holdings, who appeared to enjoy a narrow 2-3 per cent lead right through the counting hours, only to be pipped towards the end by Dr Tony Tan.

Speaking to his supporters before the results were announced, Dr Tan Cheng Bock said he was proud of the way he and his team conducted his campaign and how they put "nation above politics".

"For many weeks we ate, laughed and ate together. I'm glad so many of you with different political affiliations came together and we worked together as a team."

The former Ayer Rajah MP, who campaigned under the slogan "Think Singaporeans First" and had proposed that the Prime Minister's residence should be moved out of the Istana, also thanked all those who voted for him during the closely contested election.

"I met so many good friends and I'm very grateful. We fought very hard and I want to believe that we did the best we could have done... I could not have asked for more. Your friendship, your friendship, sacrifice and hard work will always be with me," said the medical doctor and father of two.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock and his supporters, together with several reporters, started their evening with a visit to the counting centre at Southview Primary School before heading to Jurong Junior Colleage. They then went to Singapore Chinese Girls' School.

Throughout, the team appeared to be in high spirits and optimistic.

At one stage, a visibly confident Dr Tan Cheng Bock said that he was "very happy" and that while counting was "very, very close", he was confident he would have the "edge" in the final stages because he enjoyed strong support in West Coast.

Sources said that Dr Tan Cheng Bock had a good showing in the west but lost his 2-3 per cent margin of votes after a poorer showing in the central and easten areas of Singapore.

When the first initial vote tally had shown that Dr Tony Tan had won by around 8,000 votes, Dr Tan Cheng Bock asked for a recount of all votes from counting centres at about 1.15 am as the winning margin was under less than two per cent.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock was just a hair's breadth away from becoming the Republic's next Elected President. (infograhic)
Dr Tan Cheng Bock was just a hair's breadth away from becoming the Republic's next Elected President. (infograhic)

'I will always support him'

Supporters told Yahoo! Singapore they were disappointed with the results but said they would continue to support Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

A 33-year-old civil servant, who wanted to be known as Soong, was among those at Jurong East Stadium waiting for the results at the wee hours of Sunday morning.

He said he saw Dr Tan's expression on TV earlier as he left the Elections Department during the recount and "he didn't look too happy".

"We felt we had to come down to support him as West-siders," he said, adding that he admired Dr Tan's "intergrity" and the way he conducted himself during the campaign.

Yong Hai Chui, 54, said Dr Tan was his doctor for some 35 years. "I will always support him. He supported us by giving us healthy lives," he added.

"Tony Tan can do a good job and he already proved that when he was Deputy Prime Minister. It's just that Tan Cheng Bock connects well with the people and has a human touch. Tony Tan does not have the human touch," said educator Diana Soh, 38.

Student Kim Chan, 24, said he hoped Tony Tan would be able to lead the country well.

"I prefer Tan Cheng Bock because he gives a more neutral "feel" and has the interest of the citizen as a whole. Tony Tan gives the feeling that he's been in the parliament for quite some time," said Chan.

Chan added that he hopes the President will not be biased to any parties and have the whole nation in mind.

The other two PE candidates, Tan Jee Say came home with 25.04 per cent (529,732 votes) and Tan Kin Lian garnered a mere 4.91 per cent (103,931 votes).