The Presidential Election Committee must grant a Certificate of Eligibility to a candidate before he would be able to contest the Presidential Election.

So far we know that there are 3 serious contenders. Don’t forget that there’s a fourth chap who has collected the papers for submission, Mr Ooi Boon Ewe. He is likely to be rejected by the Committee (as he was when he applied to contest for the 2005 Presidential Election).

I wonder if the PEC will grant the COE to all the 3 Tans. I believe that there is little doubt that the hardcore PAP supporters will go for Dr Tony Tan. I suspect that the hardcore anti-PAP voter would go for Tan Kin Lian. Dr Tan Cheng Bock is inevitably the one that could be the vote splitter. Would he split the PAP supporters or the opposition supporters? It would be interesting to see.

Given the current political climate, I believe that if it was a straight fight between Dr Tony Tan and Tan Kin Lian or Dr Tony Tan and Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Dr Tony Tan would lose. If we take the general election result as a starting point, 60% voted for the PAP and 40% against. Whilst the 40% can be trusted to cast a vote against the PAP ‘approved’ candidate in the Presidential election, the same cannot be said about the 60% who voted for the PAP. Many amongst the 60% already showed unhappiness but were either unconvinced by the opposition, inspired by local constituency level issues, cowed by fear or swayed by last minute apologies. I believe that, in a Presidential Election, these voters would not hesitate to vote for the candidate that presents himself as ‘non-white’. This would work to the advantage of the candidate racing against Dr Tony Tan.

If the COE is granted only to Dr Tony Tan and one other candidate, I strongly believe that the other candidate would win. If the 3 Tans get the COE, Dr Tan Cheng Bock would either split the pro-PAP or the pro-opposition voters.

Would the 3 Tans qualify for the COE?

Under the constitution the following criteria needs to be met (in addition to others that I feel is not really an issue for the 3 gentlemen):

The candidate must satisfy the Presidential Elections Committee that he is a person of integrity, good character and reputation.

For not less than 3 years, he must have been either a Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or a Permanent Secretary;
Chairman or CEO of CPF Board, HDB, JTC or MAS;
Board Chairman or CEO of a company with paid-up capital of at least $100 million

If the candidate does not meet the requirement of 3 years’ experience in those positions, he can still qualify if he occupied a similar position (based on seniority & experience) in any other organisation of equivalent size/complexity in the public or private sector. The criteria here is that the PEC must form the view that the candidate’s position has given him experience in adminstering and managing financial affairs so as to enable him to discharge the President’s functions effectively.

Given the background of the 3 gentlemen, I believe that the PEC ought to grant the COE to all three men unless the Committee for some reason decides to question or doubt one of them on the ground of integrity, good character or reputation. This, I believe is unlikely.

In all probability we are looking at a 3 horse race.