Monday, August 29, 2011

At 80 per cent, we were tying: Tan Cheng Bock


Dr Tan Cheng Bock says he and eventual winner Dr Tony Tan were neck and neck until the votes from Sembawang came in on Polling night.

Revealing exactly how close the two top contenders for Singapore's Presidency were, Dr Tan Cheng Bock said on Sunday afternoon, "Sometimes I'm ahead, sometimes he's ahead … Even at 80 per cent (of the votes tallied) we were just tying, 35-35 (per cent)."

"It was only toward the last bit, when Sembawang came in then we took a little dip and he beat me by 0.34 per cent," said the 71-year-old, who was speaking to the media 12 hours after the final results were announced.

Dressed in a short-sleeved white shirt and seated on the sofa at his Holland Grove Drive home, a visibly relaxed Dr Tan shared the anxiety and happiness of the night as Dr Tony Tan and him took turns to lead the four-way race.

When he arrived at Jurong East Stadium on Saturday night, Dr Tan Cheng Bock had told the media he was "very happy" and that while counting was "very, very close", he was confident he would have the "edge" in the final stages because he enjoyed strong support in West Coast.

However, after the recount concluded at 4.25am on Sunday morning, Dr Tony Tan was announced as Singapore's seventh President, winning by a margin of over 7,000 votes.

"I am disappointed," admitted Dr Tan Cheng Bock. But he also told his men "not to be discouraged" because "at the end of the day, we won also, fighting against the big machinery".

Learning how to take the pain will help them to develop strength as well, he added.

"I think Singaporeans endorsed us," he said. "In spite of the odds, we did it. We have conducted a well-planned campaign."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called him on Sunday morning, said Dr Tan.

"I was quite surprised to receive his call. It was to compliment my election campaign. He said, 'You've done a very well, dignified campaign'," he recounted.

Unlike other candidates, Dr Tan steered clear of addressing bread and butter issues during his campaign as he felt this was out of the purview of the President.

However, Dr Tan noted that if it were a two-horse race, he would have stood a "much much better chance" but he also expected to see more rejected votes.

He also said the election showed a division in the ruling People's Action Party, with some grassroots volunteers telling him they support him.

He said, "I think the party has to have a critical look at their own way of doing things. I think they have to learn how to fight again."


What's next for Dr Tan?

Dr Tan, who did not rule out the possibility of running in the next Presidential Election, said he will stay "watchful of what's happening in Singapore" through his blog and Facebook page.

No longer a Presidential candidate, he will be able to contribute his thoughts on bread and butter issues.

The former Ayer Rajah Member of Parliament, however, said he would not join any political parties as he wants to remain neutral and continue with his aim of promoting unity in Singapore.

While some have suggested Dr Tony Tan could invite Dr Tan Cheng Bock to join the Council of Presidential Advisers, the latter said, if invited, he would have to "think very carefully" and it would depend if the two "share common grounds".

"I must pay compliment to him (Dr Tony Tan). He has won and good luck to him. He has got a very difficult task ahead of him but I guess he has been given the mandate, he has to do it."

The challenge for the President-Elect would be to convince the 64 per cent who did not vote for him, noted Dr Tan. "Knowing that his strength is with the economy, he's got to put some effort into the ground. ... You have to concentrate on the people."

"The 64 per cent, majority of them are ordinary Singaporeans and they want to see how well-connected he is," added Dr Tan.

When asked about his future plans, Dr Tan replied, "I want to relax for a while, maybe go back to my medical practice. I got a lot of old patients waiting for me."

"Maybe they voted against me," he joked, noting that, if elected, he could be too busy to see his patients. "But I like to believe they are quite clever voters."

Article By Alicia Wong


Dr Tan Cheng Bock's post-election press briefing, Aug 28

At a casual press briefing held in his living room, Dr Tan Cheng Bock speaks about his narrow loss to President-Elect Tony Tan, and what his plans are for the future.

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