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Singapore’s Presidential Election: Ho Ching sees a two-way race, George Goh left out?

SINGAPORE – Madam Ho Ching, former CEO and Executive Director of Temasek Holdings, has shared thoughts about the upcoming Presidential Election on her Facebook post dated July 19, appearing to hint that only two potential candidates who have ties to the People’s Action Party (PAP) government, would be eligible for the race.

Mdm Ho, who also chairs the Temasek Trust and is the spouse of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, penned her thoughts in response to a Channel News Asia report announcing the intention of former GIC chief investment officer Mr Ng Kok Song to run for the Singapore presidency.

In her post, Mdm Ho wrote:

“At 75, with a wealth of experience and a lifetime of public service behind him, Kok Song could well enjoy his retirement. It does require a certain bent of character and duty to come forward and offer himself as a candidate for the public to scrutinise and assess if they would want to vote for him. It can be very humbling when voters reject us, no? Takes courage to run the gauntlet for a very private sort of person. It is good that Singaporeans can choose between 2 very capable and worthy persons, who bring different strengths to the role of Sg’s President.”

Mdm Ho continued by pondering on the implications of politicising the presidency and the importance of system integrity, stating:

“We forget that being independent is a state of mind of being objective and courageous in making the right decision taking into account all the various factors and circumstances… Only by being tested repeatedly and regularly that we can build an ethos that hopefully will last a few generations.”

Mdm Ho had previously said in a Facebook post that the role of the President is “not to be an independent voice.”

“It is not to be an independent voice, a check on govt, or an ombudsman to all the woes and ills of society.” claims Mdm Ho.

Mr Ng, who currently serves as the executive chairman of Avanda Investment Management, was quoted as dismissing the idea that he was joining the race merely to split votes.

He said, “Would I endure all this suffering with my family … for the sake of just splitting the votes? No. I am prepared, and my family are prepared for us to endure this suffering because we want to serve Singapore.”

During their tenures at Singapore’s two sovereign wealth funds, both individuals likely interacted often. Mdm Ho served at Temasek for 17 years, from 2004 to 2022, while Mr Ng spent 27 years at GIC from 1986 to 2013.

Ng was appointed GIC’s first group chief investment officer in 2007, a post he held until he retired.

However, Mr Ng’s role as GIC’s group chief investment officer does not fall within the public service roles that qualify for the presidency.

According to a spokesperson, Article 19(3)(c)(ii) of the Constitution allows for the Presidential Elections Committee to consider a candidate’s experience and ability comparable to the CEO of a Fifth Schedule entity.

Former PAP senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Entrepreneur George Goh have also expressed their intention to run for the presidential election, which must be held before 13 September this year as current President Madam Halimah Yacob’s six-year term comes to an end.

Goh, similar to Ng, faces challenges in his qualification status.

Mr Goh confidently stated at a doorstop interview outside the Elections Department at Novena, “In due course, I will submit the number of companies I founded, incorporated, am a shareholder of, am a founding member of… I’ll compile them and submit to the Presidential Elections Committee.”

In an interview with Lianhe Zaobao, Goh emphasized his independence from any political party involvement and association with grassroots organizations like the Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC).

Singapore awaits the Presidential Elections with anticipation, keen to see who will meet the eligibility criteria, and ultimately, who will earn the trust and votes of Singaporeans.

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