Tony Tan to contest in Presidential Election

Alicia Wong
SingaporeScene

UPDATED

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan will be contesting in the upcoming Presidential Election as an independent candidate. (AFP photo)

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, 71, has confirmed he will be running in the upcoming Presidential Election.

Dr Tan, who will be contesting as an independent candidate, arrived at the Elections Department with his wife, Mary, at 10.30 am on Thursday to collect the Certificate of Eligibility Forms.

Speaking at a press conference later, Dr Tan revealed he has resigned from his roles as chairman of Singapore Press Holdings and deputy chairman and executive director of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), effective from 1 July.

He has also resigned from the People's Action Party.

Dr Tan noted, while there is no legal requirement for him to resign from the GIC or SPH, he did so to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest and remove "any doubts about SPH's media's independence".

He will also take a leave of absence for his non-executive position in the National Research Foundation and other boards to distance himself from their daily operations and concentrate on the Election Campaign.

Pointing to his various responsibilities, Dr Tan said he is "presently very comfortable with my status as a private citizen" and acknowledged his independent bid for President would risk his "stimulating and interesting work and a legacy built up over three decades".

But he decided to run as Singapore's next president may have to make significant decisions affecting the security and well-being of Singaporeans, amid a challenging global landscape, he said.

"How could I not run?" stressed Dr Tan. "How could I remain a spectator while Singapore faces such complex challenges? How could I not step forward when I know I have more to contribute to the country we all worked to build?"

Dr Tan said, he was not approached by the government to run as a candidate and did so on his own accord.

If he is elected, Dr Tan pledged to be "fair and independent".

"I will work in partnership with the Government, all political parties, and civil society to safeguard and advance the future of all Singaporeans," he said, calling for unity, creativity and energy to meet the challenges facing Singapore.

He also hopes to help the disadvantaged, handicapped and others who need help and may have fallen through the cracks.

However, Dr Tan stressed, it is not the responsibility of the President to suggest changes in policy. The government should remain the sole power centre in Singapore or there would be chaos, he said.

"I remain convinced that Singapore's best days lie ahead of us. The years ahead will be challenging, but exciting," he said. "In the midst of so much change, we need a President with experience and a steady hand."

He also clarified, he has not sought endorsement from the government, labour union or any other organisation but will welcome it, if given. It is for Singaporeans to decide if the endorsement is a disadvantage, he added.

Dr Tan said, the President must be above politics and could play an important role representing Singapore internationally and serving as a unifying figure at home, to heal divisions -- politically and economically -- and to advance the future of all Singaporeans.

He noted that his years at the GIC could help him exercise responsibility in looking after the reserves.

A spokesperson from the GIC told Yahoo! Singapore, "Dr Tan is working with the GIC management to decide on his successors or changes to the various internal GIC appointments he holds."

President hopeful Dr Tan Cheng Bock said he welcomes Dr Tony Tan's entry into the contest.

"I'm happy because Singaporeans get a chance to vote for their own president. And Singaporeans have a choice," he said. "They should think carefully what they want their President to do and who is the best person to safeguard their reserves."

He stressed, "Whoever gets voted in must have the full confidence of Singaporeans in terms of integrity, fair play and unquestionable independence."

President hopeful Tan Kin Lian also welcomed Dr Tony Tan's decision. He felt Dr Tony Tan would "represent a good choice for Singaporeans who prefer to see stability and continuity in the past and current policies of the Government."

Tan said he would "offer a different choice to the people".

"I believe that I am in closer touch with the ordinary people in Singapore and can get a better sense of their views and aspirations," said Tan, adding he would be able reflect these aspirations while fulfilling the Presidential duties.

He added, "I would be able to provide a different perspective and act independently of the Government in the decisions that have to be made by the President."

President S R Nathan, who will be making his decision on whether he will contest soon, said on Thursday, Dr Tony Tan is a "remarkable man" with all the qualities to lead the country.

Describing Dr Tony Tan as a "very strategic thinker", always with the interest of Singapore in mind, Acting Minister for Community development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing said he is very happy with Dr Tony Tan's decision.

"He's very caring about the people who work with him, always making sure that they are well taken care of and well looked after," he added, speaking on the sidelines of a sports event on Thursday.

"I think he has a very simple philosophy of: "If you take care of the people, the people will take care of the mission.""

Dr Tan was earlier coy about whether he would contest.

Without confirming or denying his presidential bid, Dr Tan told the media earlier this month that the next elected president would hold office during a period of enormous change.

He said, it is more important than ever that the president has a steady hand and deep understanding of the complexities behind each decision he may have to make.

The former mathematics and physics lecturer at the University of Singapore entered politics in 1979. He retired from politics after 27 years in government, having helmed various ministries such as finance, education, defence and health.

In an earlier poll by Yahoo! Singapore, 48 per cent of the 12,652 users voted for Dr Tan as their number one choice for the role of President.

Other options listed in the poll included former Ayer Rajah MP Tan Cheng Bock (1,987 votes), ex-NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian (2,270 votes) and incumbent President S R Nathan (2,382 votes). (President Nathan has not indicated if he will contest this election.)

The Presidential Election must be held by 31 August.

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