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Tan Cheng Bock vs George Yeo for president?

Andrew Loh /

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo, says he is “thinking hard” about calls for him to stand for the elected presidency. Mr Yeo, in a posting on his Facebook page, says: “Many Singaporeans from different walks of life, young and old, have asked me to reconsider my decision on the Presidency, some impassionately.”

He says he is “praying for wisdom” about the matter.

Mr Yeo was the leader of the People’s Action Party team which contested and lost Aljunied GRC to the opposition Workers’ party in the May elections.

Just days after the electoral defeat in Aljunied, Mr Yeo had said that he will not contest in the presidential elections. “I'm a free spirit and I don't think I'm temperamentally suited for it,” he said then. (Straits Times)

He also confirmed that he will not contest Aljunied GRC in the next elections and, according to the Straits Times, is “exiting the political scene”. This prompted many to urge him to run for the presidency instead with some saying that it would be a loss for Singapore to let his experience and international stature go to waste.

Mr Yeo, who entered politics in 1988 on the PAP ticket, is seen as someone with a sharp mind. However, there have also been criticisms about some of the policies he was involved in, including the two Integrated Resorts with the casinos, and the censorship laws introduced under his watch as Minister for Communications and the Arts.

As Foreign Minister, he was at the centre of Singaporeans’ attention during the Burmese uprising in 2007 with some questioning why he did not condemn the Burmese military junta’s crackdown on its citizens and monks in the country. Controversy followed later when Singapore named an orchid after the then-Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, and Singapore allowing Burmese generals to receive medical treatment in Singapore.

Mr Yeo, if he stands for the presidency, will be the second member from the PAP to express interest in the election. Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former PAP MP for Ayer Rajah, has confirmed that he will take part in the contest, which is expected to be held in August.

Dr Tan, who has since tendered his resignation from the PAP, is one of the most popular PAP MPs, even now. His 88 per cent share of the vote in the 2001 parliamentary elections was the PAP's best score in 31 years. A medical doctor by profession, he is best known for speaking his mind, whether in Parliament or outside of it.

More recently, he stepped down from the board of the upcoming hospital to be built in Jurong, citing disagreement with the Government’s decision to name it after local tycoon, Mr Ng Teng Fong.

“With this donation of $125 million the government is prepared to have the hospital renamed from Jurong General Hospital to Ng Teng Fong hospital. To me this was wrong as it looked as if any rich man could have a public institution named after him if he donates the right amount,” Dr Tan wrote on his website.

“I cannot reconcile with this and resigned from the board.”

Will the presidential election see a contest between two candidates who would be emerging from the PAP?

Perhaps the first sign that this will indeed happen is if Mr Yeo announces his resignation from the PAP, as required by law.

Mr Yeo's Facebook posting today - 1 June - coincides with the opening of applications on the same day.

Anyone who wants to be a candidate for the presidential election needs a Certificate of Eligibility from the Presidential Elections Committee not later than 3 days after the writ of election is issued.