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Tan Kin Lian's contribution to a freak election

~by: Lim Tong Kay~

Mr Tan Kin Lian showed courage, effort and commitment in participating in the last Presidential Election (PE).  He was courageous in revealing his reaction on sensitive matters relating to the Internal Security Act.  In his own way, he spoke calmly, frankly, clearly and applied his creative mind in trying to expand the role of the president by advocating that the president is not dumb.

Many insurance holders may still recognize him but may not identify him as someone speaking out for the people. Of course the people he spoke up for during the mini-bond saga would have remembered him but I believe his support base was reduced when aspersions were cast on his standing at NTUC Income.

Kin Lian continued to show his care for insurance policy holders with his mini insurance guide sold at the 7-eleven stores.  All these are a good start on the road to gaining recognition and support from the populous on his journey to be the voice of the people.  But first, a recognition of the odds stacked against him and the risk of an unexpected event is in order.

There was overwhelming evidence that he was the underdog and that his persistence in the campaign will finally split the votes, risking a remote chance of a freak election of a different kind.

  1. Pre-nomination public feedback that candidates fighting for the non-establishment voters will split the votes; here the weakest candidate amongst the three is patently clear.
  2. Loss of support from the social media groups and other civic groups, he said, even before nomination.
  3. Currency of voters’ recognition of Jee Say, his strong programs for the EP office and conversely Kin Lian’s weakness in these two departments throughout the campaign.
  4. Compared to the crowd in the thousands at Toa Payoh Stadium for Jee Say’s rally on Tuesday Kin Lian's at Yio Chu Kang Stadium for Kin Lian’s night rally attracted much less.
  5. The well-run across the country campaign by seasoned campaigners from his opponents' team.
  6. Feedback he would have gotten if he had continued with his private survey or obtain information from third party survey.
  7. Most importantly, Straits Times report on cooling-off day, portrayed effectively his and Jee Say’s concession that both are not going to win.  The highlight of his low point, revealed his loss of confidence in wining this campaign.  And voter would not want to waste their vote on a loser. They want their vote to count.  If not a big step, then vote for their second choice who could take a small step towards what they yearn for.   The effect is potent.  On Jee Say, the effect works also to a lesser extent.
  8. On the same Straits Times report, captions screams out “Beware a freak result, former (PAP) MP warns”.   “He cautioned against voting for the underdog just because a certain candidate appears to be leading.”  This has the effect of drawing voters away from all considered the underdogs towards the leader.

Kin Lian said that he is a statistician when he conceded defeat after visiting only just 3 counting stations on pooling day.  So, as a statistician, he would have surely recognised the remoteness of his chances of winning, but he still must have continued to avail himself as a candidate to the electorate hoping to get enough votes to enhance his standing for his declared journey, which is to continue speaking out for the people of Singapore.

Of course, he has every right to grow his own support base.

But in my opinion, his continuing to stand in the last PE caused a freak election of a different kind; when votes cast for him determined the eventual winner. This made Kin Lian the target of  blame and undid his good work of bringing lively, dignified debates and public interest on the role of the Elected President. And so, it would be good for Kin Lian to admit honestly that he made an error of calculation and that he perhaps did not think through thoroughly the consequences.

The last Presidential Election was indeed a freak election. But Mr Tan Kin Lian will not be seen as the only candidate causing it if he would just apologise for his miscalculations and error of judgment.