Historic 4 to run for President

By Gwendolyn Ng and Sarah Chang

FOR the first time in Singapore history, four candidates are eligible to run for Singapore's third elected presidency.

The Presidential Election Committee (PEC) yesterday awarded four certificates of eligibility.

A statement yesterday named the eligible candidates as former deputy prime minister Tony Tan, 71; former senior civil servant Tan Jee Say, 57; former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian, 63; and former Member of Parliament Tan Cheng Bock, 71.

Two presidential hopefuls who did not make the cut are former JTC Corporation group chief financial officer Andrew Kuan, 57, and private tutor Ooi Boon Ewe, 71.

This year's presidential election is shaping up to be the hottest since it was last contested in 1993. In the 1993 election, the late deputy prime minister and labour chief Ong Teng Cheong defeated banker Chua Kim Yeow.

In 1999, President S R Nathan, a veteran civil servant and diplomat, ran unopposed. He was sworn in for a second term in 2005 when no other eligible candidate emerged.

Both Mr Kuan and Mr Ooi had tried - but failed - to qualify in previous presidential elections.

This is Mr Kuan's second attempt at securing a certificate of eligibility. The first was in 2005, but his application was rejected. Mr Ooi had similarly applied unsuccessfully in 1999 and 2005.

This time, both were rejected because the "seniority and responsibility" of their positions did not match the Constitution's eligibility criteria.

The statement also said that Mr Ooi had initially submitted an incomplete application form to the committee. He later updated the application and asked for a waiver from the criterion.

The PEC said all four candidates were deemed eligible under the Constitution as they had "integrity, good character and reputation".

To qualify for a certificate of eligibility, the Constitution requires that candidates had served as a minister, chief justice, permanent secretary, or a chairman or chief executive of a Singapore-registered company with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million, among other criteria.

The statement said Mr Tan Kin Lian was found to have met the requirement due to his position in NTUC Income while Mr Tan Jee Say served as the regional managing director of AIB Govett (Asia).

Both were also found to have held other similar or comparable positions of seniority and responsibility in an organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector.

The four eligible candidates will now have up to Aug 16, the eve of Nomination Day, to announce their decision to continue in the presidential race.

On Nomination Day, candidates will be required to file their nomination papers. Each candidate will be given two minutes to speak after the documents are submitted.

The four candidates will have a minimum of nine days to woo an estimated 2.35 million eligible voters in their campaign, followed by a Cooling-Off Day.

In an e-mail statement, Mr Tan Jee Say congratulated his fellow eligible candidates, adding that he looked "forward to a dignified contest with them".

Similarly, Mr Tan Kin Lian said: "I wish to assure the public and all concerned that my campaign will be run in a clean and dignified manner, as befitting the status of the office."

Dr Tony Tan said he is "deeply honoured" by the nod of eligibility for the "highest office in our nation". He added: "I expect there to be a vigorous exchange of views during the campaign, with all Singaporeans participating in the discussion."

Dr Tan Cheng Bock posted a statement on his Facebook profile page. It said: "From now till Nomination Day we will go full steam in our preparation. We are ready."

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