PE2017 will affect voting at next GE: Tan Cheng Bock

Dr Tan Cheng Bock says he does not want to set up his own party "just yet".
Dr Tan Cheng Bock says he does not want to set up his own party "just yet".

Former MP also keen to mentor aspiring politicians across party lines in attempt to train good MPs, he tells forum

Singapore's first reserved presidential election will weigh on the minds of voters when the next general election comes around, said former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock yesterday.

President Halimah Yacob's walkover victory prompted a great outpouring of anger and frustration, and has thrown up a new obstacle for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), he noted at a forum on the country's political future.

It will affect how people vote at the next general election, he said, in his first full remarks after the presidential election, which was reserved for Malay candidates.

"Singaporeans felt they were deprived of their democratic right to vote for a president of their choice," said the former PAP MP of 26 years, who lost the 2011 Presidential Election by a razor-thin margin.

"How you capitalise on this is a task for any politician wanting to see a change. And a change can only come if the electorate sends a strong signal by voting for more alternative MPs in Parliament."

Dr Tan repeatedly urged Singaporeans to step forward and help bring about change at yesterday's session, part of the Future of Singapore series of forums curated by architect Tay Kheng Soon.

An audience of about 150 people quizzed Dr Tan on various topics during a lively two-hour question-and-answer session, ranging from whether he would set up his own political party to whether he would help bring opposition parties together. Revealing his post-election plans for the first time, he said: "I'll keep my options open, but I would also love to be a mentor to many people who want to go into the political arena."

"I'll teach them the art of winning the elections... I want to be a mentor. I've got knowledge, information. I know how Singapore runs, how it ticks," he added.

He is open to helping aspiring politicians across party lines, including those from the PAP, he said, as his objective is to train good MPs who will think of Singapore first, regardless of party affiliation.

Dr Tan added that he has met "quite a few", without elaborating.

Regarding his constitutional challenge on the timing of the reserved election, which was dismissed by the High Court and Court of Appeal, Dr Tan said he took it up as "a concerned citizen".

He hopes to encourage Singaporeans to do the same, and challenge the Government when they feel something is amiss.

He also urged those interested in politics to get a better understanding of bread-and-butter issues such as transport and education.

"Singaporeans need more convincing on how alternative parties can address issues of the day that affect them," he said.

He also gave his thoughts on the current slate of PAP leaders, whom he felt could have more diverse views and backgrounds.

Dr Tan said he spoke up often and did not always toe the party line in his years as an MP, citing how he voted against the Nominated MP scheme.

He added that he does not want to set up his own party "just yet", as that would just add to the number of political parties.

Dr Tan was repeatedly asked if he would help rally the various opposition parties together. These parties have their own agendas, and "too many of them have their pride and will not want to give up their positions", he noted.

But he said: "My hope is that if all the political parties can come together, I don't mind being your mentor, being your neutral man, to see whether you can come to some understanding."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'PE2017 will affect voting at next GE: Tan Cheng Bock'. Print Edition | Subscribe