Former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian submitted on Thursday his application for the certificate of eligibility to run for President amid questions on whether he could qualify.
The 63-year-old presidential hopeful said that as NTUC Income is not registered under the Companies Act but instead under the Co-Operative Societies Act, he applied for eligibility under a special clause.
"I have been CEO of NTUC Income for 30 years and its shared capital is $500 million, its assets is $17 billion dollars, so the only difficulty is that it is not a company, it is a co-operative society," he told reporters at a press conference on Thursday at the Bayview Hotel in Bencoolen Street.
To qualify as a candidate for election, the Singaporean should, among others, have "held office for a period of not less than 3 years in position of seniority and responsibility in the public or private sector" as described in four clauses.
In one of the clauses, presidential hopefuls are required to hold the position of a chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a "company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act".
Since NTUC Income is not listed under the Companies Act, it means that Tan does not directly fulfill this criterion.
"Therefore I have to apply under a special clause," he said.
The clause he was referring to states the candidate must have been in similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organization or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector.
But the Presidential Elections Committee must also give its opinion that position or responsibility "has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President".
When asked what the next steps may be if his application were to be rejected, Tan's official legal adviser, Freddy Neo, 58, told Yahoo! Singapore that they will be looking at the reasons given by the presidential committee.
"If the reasons are not valid, we will go to the election judge. But it's premature to say whether his (Tan) application will be rejected," said Neo.
Still, Tan himself said he is confident of receiving the certificate of eligibility.
"It is not just based on my legal adviser, but based on my own reading. I do qualify and am confident that I my application will be approved," he said.
Responding to queries on his campaign funding, Tan said that he had received donation pledges amounting to $50,000, of which mostly came from his supporters.
While the funds would be enough for a "shoestring budget" for his campaign, Tan hoped to raise between $100,000 to $200,000 which he said would increase his public outreach efforts.
Still, he will also have to settle the $48,000 election deposit -- and that will come from his own pocket, should he be eligible to contest.
He also dismissed criticisms that his calls to Singaporeans to contribute to his campaign fund could reflect the low support that the public have for his candidacy.
Yahoo! Singapore also understands that a number of activists from Singapore's opposition parties will be supporting Tan in his election campaign if he is deemed eligible.
However, Tan rejected the notion that their involvement would make him seem as though he is more inclined or partial towards the opposition.
"They are just volunteers at their personal capacity and not based on their affiliations to any political parties," he said.
At the media briefing, Tan also reiterated the statements he made in his blog postings.
Among others, he said that he would like to provide an alternative voice but still in line with the Constitution which the President's role is subjected under and to "work" together with the government through the process of "discussions and consultations".
After the press conference, Tan and his entourage — which included his wife and daughter — went on to submit his application forms at the Elections Department around 11.25 am.
He was greeted by an officer who then escorted him to a private meeting room. Speaking to reporters later, he described the process as "smooth", adding that the officer assisted in verifying the details in his application forms and ensuring they are in order.
Dr Tony Tan submits forms on the same day
It almost became the "clash of the Tans" as minutes after Tan left the election building, another presidential hopeful, former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, 71, made an appearance, arriving in a silver Mercedes.
Shortly after he had filed the application forms, Dr Tan said he hoped it would be approved.
"The decision on who qualifies for the certificate of eligibility rests with the Presidential Elections Committee. I hope that they will grant me the certificate of eligibility, so that I can step forward and have the opportunity to serve Singapore and Singaporeans again."
Dr Tan also responded to queries on why he had decided to file the forms on that day given that Tan Kin Lian had done so earlier.
In his reply, the former chairman of Singapore Press Holdings said he had finished the paperwork earlier and it was convenient to submit it on Thursday, adding that he was not aware the former NTUC chief would also be coming.
Saying that preparations for his election campaign are underway, Dr Tan added that he is also trying to understand the needs and aspirations of Singaporeans.
"Because I think that this election, the most important people are Singaporeans, so we have to find out what are their aspirations, their needs and their views and that's what I am doing now."