The outcome of the Presidential elections was obviously a shock to me. I expected a much better result and the prospect of polling less than the 12.5% of the votes (and losing the deposit) was felt to be remote.
Some commentators said that I should have known the ground feel on nomination day and withdrawn my candidacy then. This would have given the other “non-establishment” candidates the vital additional votes needed to win the elections and save me from the dismal disappointment of receiving only 4.9 per cent of the votes as well as a substantial financial loss.
As always, the wisdom of hindsight never fails but the truth was that on nomination day, the voters were still largely undecided on whom they would be voting, if at all.
My private surveys as well as information from a third party survey pointed to a credible level of support for me. I had also expected strong support from the heartlanders and the over 1 million policyholders of NTUC Income (where I had served for 30 years) as well as many people who remembered my advocacy of public causes and the plight of those who suffered investment losses during the last financial crisis.
Stacked against these positive indications was an on-line poll on Yahoo which showed a low level of support for me. However, I felt that the online poll was not representative of the entire voting population, as proven in the recent general election, and there were indications that this particular poll had been manipulated.
Anyway, it would have been difficult for me to drop out of the contest at nomination date. I would have disappointed the people who wanted to vote for me and also my supporters, who had put in a lot of work during the previous six weeks and my donors.
There was also the risk that I would be considered a coward or a quitter or someone who was never serious about the election. Most importantly, I felt that I could offer a choice of a different platform for Singaporeans to decide,
Some people asked if I would have withdrawn if I had reliable information that my support was less than 10%. The answer is that this is a moot point as we did not have that information. As already shared, we believed that on Nomination Day, the voters were still largely uncommitted.
I decided to contest the election on my platform to be the voice of the people, to use the influence of the President to make life better for Singaporeans and to be a truly non-partisan candidate. I worked hard to bring this message across in the TV broadcasts and the forums among the four candidates. Regrettably, I failed to convince the voters and became the candidate with the least votes.
I also suffered considerable damage from some mis-reporting by the mainstream media. My proposal on giving better recognition to male citizens who served national service was wrongly reported as advocating that females should also serve national service. Although the media reported my correction on this point, the damage had already been done and was irreparable. I also suffered from negative slant in the reporting on some other issues – which I shall not dwell on.
My post mortem should that there were a few weaknesses in my campaign strategy, my image and messaging. I shall not go into them in detail.
The clear and positive message, sent in by many people after the results including those who did not vote for me, was that I was seen to be “sincere, courageous and spoke for Singaporeans”. I like to thank them for their support, understanding and encouraging words.
I was accused by my detractors of being the person responsible for letting Dr. Tony Tan become elected as President. They argued that I should have withdrawn, so that a “non-establishment” candidate could have been voted in. I had already explained why I could not take this approach.
I would also make the point that it was really up to the last candidate to withdraw as his platform was similar to mine in several respects. In the arena of natural justice, it is really only fair that the last one in should bear the responsibility for the outcome of the changed situation
My approach was to let the people of Singapore decide on the best person to be President. I do not have any preference for any particular candidate – not even for myself. I had congratulated Dr. Tony Tan for winning a hard fought contest. Time will tell if he can deliver the promise that he will act independently of the Government and protect the interest of
Singaporeans. I feel that we should give him that chance.
The election had cost me and my donors a total of $120,000, including the loss of the deposit and also a dent to my reputation. However, I have already managed the disappointment and will take a positive attitude towards this outcome. I did receive slightly more than 100,000 votes from people who believed in my platform and looked positively towards me. Their trust and regard are worth the price that I have to pay.
I had also given a choice to the people of Singapore of a truly non-partisan platform. I respect their decision at this time but hope that the non-partisan concept embodied in my platform will find their support in the future.
I am willing to continue the work of being “the voice of the people”. If there is sufficient interest and support from other interested people, I will create a new website and mechanism to implement this role. If not, I will try to play this role in a smaller way.
I would like to thank the small team of about 50 people that had worked hard with me throughout the campaign and to the generous donors. They had put in time, dedication, support and care. I thank them very much for sharing the passion with me. My thanks also go to the 100,000 over people who voted for me.
What are my plans for the future? Will I take part in a future general or presidential election? I will keep an open mind on this question. It will be decided at the right time in the future.
In the meantime, I will continue to serve the people of Singapore by communicating with them through the social media and also assist them to the best of my limited ability.
To conclude, I would like to leave everyone with the following quote from
Marilyn Vos Savant –
“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
I have not given up.
Tan Kin Lian
Candidate for the Presidential Election, 2011
31 August 2011