|Presidential candidates run as individuals but Tan was widely associated with the ruling PAP [Reuters]|
Tony Tan, a former deputy prime minister, has won a narrow victory in Singapore’s presidential election.
The 71-year-old banker received 35 per cent of about 2.1 million votes in Saturday’s poll, edging his main rival, Tan Cheng Bock, a former member of parliament, by just 7,269 ballots, Yam Ah Mee, the country’s elections chief, said on Sunday.
The announcement of the results was delayed by a few hours as election officials recounted the votes because of the tight contest between the top two candidates.
The election was Singapore’s first contested vote for president – mainly a ceremonial position in the country’s parliamentary government – since 1993.
“I plan to work my utmost for Singaporeans whatever be their political affiliation,” Tan said after the results were announced. “The presidency is above politics.”
Presidential candidates run as individuals in keeping with the non-partisan nature of the job, but Tan was widely associated with the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) – he quit the party only in June to run for the presidency.
He served for 27 years in parliament and ran five cabinet ministries before moving on to the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, which invests Singapore’s foreign reserves.
PAP losing grip of power
Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister, appealed for national unity after an intense campaign dominated by calls from government critics for a politically independent president who can act as a check on the PAP.
“Now that the election is over, we should all come together again as Singaporeans, to tackle the challenges that Singapore faces, and take our nation forward,” Lee said.
The PAP garnered 60 per cent in general elections in May, its worst showing after 52 years in power, amid discontent with soaring housing prices, a surge in foreign workers and rising income inequality.
The PAP maintains a large majority in parliament, with 81 of 87 seats. But its grip on power – once so complete that it controlled every parliament seat and PAP candidates won most districts unopposed – appears to be slipping.
“The overwhelming majority of the voters didn’t vote for the government-sponsored candidate,” said Tan Jee Say, who lost a bid for a parliament seat in May representing the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.
“More than 60 per cent wanted some checks and balances.”
Singapore’s constitution allows the president to veto the use of the country’s reserves and some public office appointments, but does not give the post any executive authority.
The outgoing president, SR Nathan, who won two six-year terms unopposed, consulted with the prime minister and the cabinet in private but avoided public comment on government policy.