Reserved PE: Paying a political price or is it for a political gain?


By Leong Hze Hian

I refer to the article “Govt prepared to pay political price over changes to Elected Presidency: Chan Chun Sing” (Channel NewsAsia, Sep 9).

It states that “It will be a “hard journey” to convince people about the need for changes to the Elected Presidency and the Government will pay a political price but it is prepared to, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing on Friday (Sep 8).

Speaking at an Institute of Policy Studies forum on the Reserved Presidential Election, Mr Chan stressed that as a young nation, Singapore had to evolve its systems to adapt to its circumstances – not just to meet the “here and now” but also to anticipate and pre-empt challenges that may arise in the future.

Mr Chan asked those at the forum to raise their hands if they thought the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) had and will pay a political price over the recent changes to the Elected Presidency, and the debate surrounding it, including the hiatus-triggered model to ensure minority representation.

Noting the agreement of many in the hall, Mr Chan said: “Why, then, did we do this?”

“If we are all good politicians, we won’t and we shouldn’t do it,” he said. “No good politician would sacrifice his political capital for a problem that may arise in future generations. Most good politicians in the world would try to preserve their political capital for themselves to manage their current problems.”

“There are many conspiracy theories out there,” he added. “But for every conspiracy theory that is out there, I have a very good answer for you.

“If it has to do with an individual, then there are many other ways,” he said. “And if it is for political gain, then surely we are not achieving it as you have rightly pointed out.”


To explain, Mr Chan related a story about a conversation with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, which he said taught him the difference between a politician and a political leader.

“We asked ourselves – PM, do we need to do this now? Because we had anticipated it would be a hard journey to convince people and we would pay the political price, at least in the short term,” said Mr Chan. “PM Lee’s answer will forever be etched in my mind, and that distinguished a politician from a political leader.

“He said ‘Yes, we are likely to pay a political price. Yes, we may not have a problem here and now, but what if we have a problem 20 or 30 years from now? Will the fourth, fifth or sixth generation of leaders have the liberty, and the luxury of time and space for them to put in place a system?’” said Mr Chan.

Mr Lee, he added, had taken it upon himself to put in place a system to pre-empt potential issues from arising in the future. “Not for himself, not for his political capital, but always thinking about what this country needs,” he said. “We are prepared to pay the political price, because we think the future of our country is much more important than any political capital that we may have.”

Mr Chan stressed that it was a “very difficult decision” to make, but the Government owes it to the future generations to put in place systems to prevent issues.

“If the issues don’t arise in future, then we will be very happy and proud. And we have done our little bit for the future of Singapore to be better,” he said. “But we will not be able to face the future generations if we have not done what we can within our means to establish the foundations for them to be even more successful than us.””

I would like to applaud Minister Chan Chun Sing for his candidness.

I agree with him that the political price may be high. But what if the political price may be so high that the Government loses its majority in Parliament in the next or future elections?

If this happens – then the political price may arguably be a “very serious price” that Singaporeans may have to pay (for this decision of the current Government) in the future.

On hindsight, the Government could have done things better – such as

… check thoroughly how many Malay candidates are likely to qualify before raising the $100 million equity requirement for either the CEO or chairman of a company, to $500 million for the CEO only?

In this connection, the New Paper said that there are 691 listed companies that meet the $500 million requirement.

In this regard, since only one of the three candidates automatically qualify, whilst the other two fall far short of the $500 million requirement – there may be a walkover on Nomination Day on 13 September.

If this happens – the political price may arguably, really end up to be very high:

– Make the constitutional change after the current presidential election. Otherwise, the obvious conclusion that many Singaporeans may come to – is that the change is to prevent people like Dr Tan Cheng Bock from running

– Don’t change the rules such that it is unlikely that there will be any rallies during the campaigning period, as it may be perceived by many Singaporeans as yet another attempt to give one of the candidates an easy win

– And of course it didn’t help that Minister Chan Chun Sing addressed the Speaker in Parliament accidentally as “Madam President”

– Should have accepted the Commission’s recommendations to increase the qualification criteria for the Speaker of Parliament to six years

– Try to choose and endorse a candidate who may not have any questions as to his or her race – which is perhaps underscored by the following remarks at the forum:

“Dr Puthucheary added that currently, while the definition of racial identity is left ambiguous, the process is clear. “So what you have is a mechanism for the process of selection of candidates to reflect what the community sentiment is,” he said. “The mechanism also leaves it open for someone in the same position to then be accepted at a later time when the sentiment has changed.”

He explained further: “The trade-off is that you get the particular individual, having that decision made about them … if you don’t qualify as being Malay, it is seen as excluding that person.

“But that person is still eligible to stand in the open election. And that opportunity to always stand – that will always be a channel. You have the same chances in the open election as anyone else.””

All is not lost in terms of the political price, as the Government can still do the right thing, after all its explanations and protestations on  “We are prepared to pay the political price, because we think the future of our country is much more important than any political capital that we may have” – by considering to have an affirmation vote by the people, as suggested by Prof Kevin Y L Tan, in the event of a walkover.

In so doing, the Government will surely turn the “political price” into a “political gain” in the hearts and minds of Singaporeans.


  1. This shows how manipulative CCS is. The way he distorts things, to appear to be above and ahead. And it also shows there’ll be more manipulations ahead, to survive with diminished political capital

    • Don’t justify by thinking for all Singaporeans and for the future. We are capable of thinking for ourselves. And right now we think you have dug a potential political grave by underestimating we will buy all your decisions and explanations without questions. Bringing the race card may tear the fabric of cohesion and harmony and divide us further. Not a wise move. Revert to open PE before it is too late. Stop selling your ko-yo medicine and saying is good for us. Not buying it. Thanks but no thanks

  2. We never have other races as our PM before. It it time to change also? The answer from them will be Singaporean not ready to have a non Chinese as PM. Ownself check ownself, ownself said ownself do!

  3. The issue here I believed is that the EP had the authority to check on the government and national reserves. By having their own people as the EP . It became “ownself check ownself”.
    Nobody knows what is with the national reserves now.

    If we continue to have no check on the government and our reserves, our future generations will suffer in future.

    We had to ask ourselves what kind of decisions had we made that they enjoy or suffer in future.

  4. Wat paid political price. Pap is changing the history of the EP n also one hand cover the sky with the endorsement of an Indian claiming to be a Malay. Let’s c if the CEc will disqualify this aneh woman changed Malay or not

  5. This is an attempt for political gain: it risks back-firing. Playing the race-card in Singapore is risky. The President should have the honour of representing the Country based on merit. This race thing risks becoming a slippery slope for the much endorsed Singapore meritocracy to go down the drain. And this whole debate “I’m more Malay than you”? Ridiculous. I’d expect it from our underdeveloped neighbours, not from Singapore.

  6. I see this as a loose-loose situation for PAP. If TCB wins… they stand to loose some autonomy on spending sovereign funds and will be challenged on past investment decisions. While bulldozing Halimah’s Presidency offends the people. But the latter has smaller damages!!

    Come next GE they will likely sweeten the sentiments once again, but we must not be influenced!! We need balance of power to stop all these nonsense… so PAP out for me.

    • Remember the answer to Ong Teng Cheong is that it would take 52 years to obtain the info he wanted? If they let TCB contest and win, they could stall him too. So aren’t they cutting off their noses to spite their faces?

    • Anne Wong Holloway… they may indeed stall TCB if he became the President and asked those awkward questions. But at least it is a statement from the people that we do not accept twicked elections!

    • Tell that to the cockroach and the lizards 70% that always have something to tsk tsk tsk about after their arse been sodomize cia lat (2x). Still came back for more sensational return, even thou losing their arse from colon cancer still wants to be pluck for more. Lets change, its our singaporean rights for our own well being of our family and livelihood.

  7. Past experience shows when they are about to pay a political price, the majority of the voters will come to their rescue n reimburse them handsomely in the polls. Hence these talks about “political price ” n “against the principles of meritocracy , but ……….”
    Things aren’t looking good right now,it seems! But that may well turn into their political gain !

  8. They messed it up in the past when they decided to have EP as another safeguard against a non pap government. Now they messed up again by taking away Ong Teng Cheong position as the first EP just to deny one of their old pal, TCB, the chance to b President. Pap = mess up king.

  9. Politicians is to serve the Citizens, take good care of it citizens , because without the citizens hard work , sacrifice n work as ONE united citizens for country there won’t be SINGAPORE Politicians without the vote of electoral they won’t be able to get into parliament. The legacy of the Politicians depends on the work they did for citizens ( like THAILAND KING BHUMIBOL which is love n respect by citizens ) If after 50 yrs. races n religious can still dismantle SINGAPORE ,PAP GOVERNMENT is not a good government we can rely on for our further .

  10. dumdum playing mind games with ownself word for ownself gains. You making singaporean stupid again with your stupid excuses and logic. Give US a real genuine Malay muslim not one of your cronies. Unless it stated open for all. But again the environment itself is controlled. Its a Joke of the century.

  11. Minister Chan, are you alluding to the fact that PAP is aware of how Singaporeans felt, democracy and the ultimate role of President was violated by this act to reserve the coming PE for a certain race and prevent more able and suitable candidates like Dr Tan, who will definitely hold the incumbent PM and his ministers to task.. was deliberate and there is literally NOTHING Singaporeans can do about it! If this is correct, this socio-manipulation or engineering by PAP clearly demonstrate the ‘dark side of PAP and its lack of respect for the rights of its electorate. From that, you then claimed ‘it clearly demonstrate leadership…’ a dictator also demonstrate leadership but what kind:Idi Amin also did that…. ‘evil, self-service n corrupt’… Remember ‘power corrupts absolute power corrupts absolutely..’ With your ‘disclosure’ … I think Singaporeans must wake up …n vote against the ‘annointed one’ even if the other is a dud.

  12. I realized CCS speaks to fool our hearts with his style of analogy. In most aspects, you would hear him speaking this way. A pattern entrenched in him.

  13. Since they think this way, I also want another race other than Chinese to be PM. Let another capable suitable candidate of the Indian,Malay andvEurasian race be the next PM.

  14. Nobody but the hardcore MIW supporters buy the argument put forth by CCS. It was quite obvious that everything was planned to allow HY to be the EP. Why didn’t they accept the proposal to increase the Speakers term to 6 years? Why did they insist they have the right to determine when the start of EP began irregardless of what had been acknowledged by their own kind earlier? I think the review commission made an error in stating it should be 5 EP before the so-called reserved election can be called! And worse of all, a Malay is classified by culture and religion and not racial origin. Try that with the Chines and Indians and see what happens! You take the race of your father, period. That is the accepted norm everywhere. Here, even when your race has been declared in your birth certificate and NRIC, it can be changed. What a joke!

  15. They are pushing the limits, taking these high risks to test and see how much audacity they can actually get away with. The more they get away with, the more appealing Singaporeans appear as the ideal submissive slave to any would be investor or future dictator that might wish to take charge of us.

  16. CCS is doing his best to con gullible Singaporeans again by manipulating words and telling grandmother stories. PAP is one of the most neurotic and over-prepared political parties in the world. They have already measured everything and this so-called political price is nothing at all. Don’t let them fool you into thinking that they are doing us a favour and that LHL is “sacrificing” for us to give us a better system. It is just a narrative.


  18. I totally agree. Meritocracy is the path to multiracialism. It allows every race to do their best in education, career etc to teach their TOP. This obviously contrast a great deal with some other countries where race entitles to low interest loans, housing, education, etc and jobs. We have been doing whatever it takes to get to multiracialism – GRC, HDB estate 2nd hand sales policy, etc. So why the big issue. First, activists who don’t want to join a party but want to write and talk freely to use the EP to badmouth the government. Second, agents of foreign government eg China who wants to see Singapore as their overseas bastion. How can they accept multiracialism when Han-ism, and their persecution of minority groups and religions are something you feel or even hear about. So, if we let it be free for all, are our Chinese population really clear thinkers to vote for a qualified minority race in a free open race. Or will they vote for their own kind. I don’t think so. Didn’t some of them in the 60s and 70s champion cultural revolution ? Didn’t some resort to commie tactics when they are unhappy with their bosses. What about now? Didn’t China offer free trips to China for our associations etc ? Come on all those English educated human rights activists who cocoon in the western world ? Aside from freedom of speech, what do you think are the impact of terrorism, or the imposition of suzerainty on Singapore ?

  19. Regardless of race, Language and religion. I recite this for 40 years.The Pioneer generation took so much effort in making us a thinking people nation, go through one of the best education system in the world. Making us understand that we are Singaporean and we are not divided by race. We go China, we tell people we are Singaporean, we go India, we are Singaporean, we go Europe or USA, we are Singaporean. We all speak Singlish irregardless we are Chinese, Indian or Eurasian. So how wrong can we to start going back to drawing board to say that we need a Malay President? I love my Malay, Indian Friends and identify them as our countrymen. If there is a war, we fought together and this was what we do during NS days. I respected president Nathan because he contributed so much to Singapore. Perhaps if you asked your Malay friends, they would say they respected all the Chinese and Indian presidents. Don’t go back and start drawing the race line. I love my country and I have my own opinion. Well! It will be an interesting Election:) maybe the result will give the world a good laugh:)

  20. Because the amendment to the constitution applies for all subsequent elections as well, one cannot assume this new method of ‘structured’ rotational election is manipulation until such time next EP the amendments are repealed, if it happens.

  21. Singaporeans must be reminded that the President post is not about PAP and opposition parties.

    It is about EP candidates < => all Singaporeans.

    We must choose a president that can present themselves well in front of other countries. We must make sure the president does not become an embarrassment to Singapore and all Singaporeans just like Donald Trump!

    We must not allow a president to disagree with the incumbent govt in front of other countries or sabotage what our govt has agreed with them. It would make Singapore a laughing stock to the world just like Donald Trump when his executive orders were rejected.

    We must show to the world that the govt and President works as ONE which reflects consistency and political stability to our foreign dignitories and investors who invest in Singapore solely because of our political stability and nothing else!

  22. CSC said that Indian Muslims are Malays but Christian Malays are not Malays. This confusion of race with religion is nonsensical just to fit Halimah to be a Malay President.

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