By Sunny Goh
I was puzzled by former Cabinet minister George Yeo’s revelation that he bowed out of the last presidential race when Dr Tony Tan indicated his willingness to run with the ruling party’s support (“No return to parliamentary politics for me, says George Yeo”; June 5).
Under Section 19 of the Singapore Constitution, the President is not allowed to be a member of any political party. Indeed, none of the four candidates in that election canvassed on the support of any political party.
The relevant clause states only that a candidate must not be a member of any political party “on the date of his nomination for election”, so there is technically nothing wrong with soliciting the ruling party’s support.
However, does seeking an assurance from the ruling party run contrary to the spirit of what is intended; that is, that the elected President must sit above party politics and, therefore, not show favour towards any party?
One could imagine that, to some extent, a successful candidate might reasonably feel beholden to the political party that supported his hard-fought campaign.
Equally, should another candidate win despite the wave of the ruling party’s support for his rival, could that make him feel less inclined to support government policies? Neither case is healthy for the Constitution and for citizens’ well-being.
In realpolitik, the alignment of a political party putting its weight behind a particular candidate is to be expected. I only wonder whether it is appropriate to seek a party’s support first, an assurance without which a candidate would not contest.