As the fall-out from Halimah’s election as Singapore’s eight president continues, one cannot help but wonder what Lee Hsien Loong was thinking. Surely, the signs were clear that Singaporeans would not be happy with a managed process where Halimah became president. Our “plan everything” cabinet would have carefully deliberated the pros and cons of the decision, and our MPs would have also weighed to tell PM the high political price that would come with the decision. Thus, the resultant lost of trust in the G is definitely not unexpected.
This then begs the question as to why Lee Hsien Loong made the decision to go ahead with a decision that could possibility end this government. Setting emotions aside, this is my analysis of the two main narratives Singaporeans are saying ….
Stop Tan Cheng Bock. While this seems to be a possible motive, it is not likely. The eligibility criteria has already been raised to $500 million and TCB no longer qualifies. G also has other candidates like DPM Tharman or George Yeo, who can outdo TCB in terms of popularity votes.
Additionally, the President is essentially a figurehead whose constitutional roles are to act as a second-key to the use of the reserves and to appoint senior civil servants. But TCB cannot act alone. By law, he must rely on the advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers and if there is a disagreement, the G can go to Parliament to overturn the President’s decision. Thus, even if TCB was elected as President, he would not be a threat to the G. Sure, he may have slowed things down, but that would not elevate him to the level worth risking the end of the PAP.
Remain in Power. The next possible motive is that LHL is doing this to remain in power. Once again, this does not make sense. Knowing beforehand the public backlash to the move, and the high possibility that voters will show their unhappiness at the next General Election, doing this to remain in power is not logical. On the contrary, doing this makes it less likely that he will continue to be in power.
To be honest, if you set aside emotions, it is difficult to discern the thinking that went behind the decision to introduce the reserved presidential election. Is G trying to fortify social fabrics at a time when the terror threat to Singapore is at its highest? We are still guessing.
What I have concluded is that there must be something that LHL and the G know that makes it worth taking the risk of destroying the PAP.
This article is contributed by Tan Feng Ching. If you would like to contribute any articles, do PM us 🙂
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