The significance of the Presidential Elections and its corresponding results is premised largely upon the roles and responsibilities of the Elected President; unfortunately, the Constitution’s limitations render Singapore’s Head of State – despite the discretionary powers – largely ceremonial. Regardless of the results, Mr. Tan Jee Say has highlighted – in the report “I Have Already Won In Three Ways No Matter What The Results: Jee Say” (August 26, 2011) by Miss Esther Ng – his personal takeaways.
Nonetheless, beyond the aforementioned limitations, the 2011 Elections have specifically: i) increased the population’s comprehension of the President’s duties, and allowed them to become more cognisant of the office and its constraints; ii) heightened discourse on pertinent political and socio-economic issues on the Internet and in traditional media; and iii) enhanced the public stature of the Presidential candidates, empowering them with more influence and prominence for future dialogue.
Understanding Our President
Prior to this year’s Presidential Elections, many Singaporeans had little or no idea about the Office of the President; at the same time, beyond his ceremonial and ambassadorial appearances, the general populace did not comprehend the President’s day-to-day undertakings. As candidates entered the fray one-by-one, discussions proliferated on all forms of media, and representatives from the government – most notably the Law Minister Mr. K. Shanmugam – simultaneously stirred debate on the abilities and “real powers” of the President. With the proceedings of the Elections and the corresponding campaign exchanges – complemented by opinions filtered in by academics – people have become more informed, which would value-add related conversations: on presidential salaries, the secrecy of the Council of Presidential Advisers, moral authority et cetera.
Advancing Active Citizenry
Riding on the wave of sentiments from the General Elections, many individuals – particularly netizens – saw the opportunity to raise various economic and socio-political issues that remained unresolved after May 2011. The extensive press coverage also gave the candidates the chance to discuss on-the-ground concerns or unhappiness, even though the President may not have specific control over these areas. Commentaries have taken advantage of this great exposure to gather support for their respective causes, and have generally been productive in gathering feedback and advancing active citizenry.
Evolving Public Figures
Besides Dr. Tony Tan, it would be fair to contend that the other three candidates had not achieved his level of prominence or public awareness; Dr. Tan Cheng Bock was an outspoken and popular parliamentarian, but had only recently re-emerged in the public scene. With Mr. Tan Kin Lian’s well-publicised endeavours during the Minibond crisis, and Mr. Tan Jee Say’s tenacious efforts during the General Elections, the Presidential race has empowered all of them with considerable support from on-the-ground constituents, and the necessary experience to conduct oneself professionally. Capitalising upon this trend would be mightily beneficial for Singaporeans: candidates would continue to speak on current affairs with panache and conviction, and increasingly in a progressive sense serve as vehicles or loudspeakers of change for the people.