tharman, NG Kok Song

SINGAPORE: Amid discussions involving Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Former Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo has endorsed presidential hopeful and ex-GIC chief economist Ng Kok Song in his bid for the head of state post.

Making his support for his “old friend and colleague” clear in a Facebook post late last night (2 Aug), Mr. Yeo revealed that he has agreed to be one of Mr. Ng’s character references, although he would not be involved in campaigning during the looming election.

Mr. Yeo wrote, “Hosted to a pleasant dinner by an old friend and colleague, Ng Kok Song, and his fiancé, Sybil Lau. I told him earlier that I would not be involved in campaigning for the coming presidential election but would be honored to be one of his character references.”

At 75, Mr. Ng is the oldest of the four presidential hopefuls who are the cynosure of all eyes in Singapore. He may go face to face with ex-Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, entrepreneur George Goh Ching Wah, and ex-NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lian if all four prospective candidates are found eligible for the race by the Elections Department (ELD).

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All four hopefuls have pledged to be an independent President if elected. Mr. Ng’s promise, however, took a critical hit after he told the press that he was “running for president because (Mr. Tharman) wants it”.

He had been referring to Mr. Tharman’s comments that he would want a contest and would not want to be elected unopposed.

Mr. Ng also said, in another instance: “The people of Singapore do not want another walkover. I am standing so that you can choose your president.”

Mr. Ng has backtracked from his “because Mr. Tharman wants it” position. He clarified in one interview, “I have come forward so that there will be an election, so Singaporeans have a chance to choose the president. And I have come forward so that there is a good contest – if I am certified eligible.”

Revealing that the vote splitter accusations sadden him, he asserted in another interview: “No one put me up to this. I put myself up to this because I’m the one who’s going to be most involved, and who has the most to sacrifice.”

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The damage, however, may have already been done, and Mr. Ng now faces a steeper uphill battle to win support.

Mr. Yeo’s public support for Mr. Ng, therefore, may be critical in helping the 75-year-old regain more confidence in the minds of voters.

Mr. Yeo, a former ruling party Minister himself, has upheld respect over the years for the way he operates and conducts himself. He was believed to be the establishment favorite for the presidential race in the 2011 and 2023 elections but has declined multiple calls to contest the elections over the years.

Last August, Mr. Yeo confirmed that he would not contest this year’s presidential election, revealing that he prefers not to constrain himself in how he behaves and speaks if he becomes President. The 68-year-old said:

“I’m a bit of a free spirit, I like to talk, I like to speculate… Sometimes I’m politically incorrect in the things I say. Now that I’m in semi-retirement, I relish and cherish this freedom. So this is not a prospect which attracts me.”

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Read also:

Singapore goes to the polls: Tharman, Ng Kok Song, Tan Kin Lian qualify as presidential candidates

Tharman draws attention to climate change, calls it Singapore’s biggest challenge  

Calvin Cheng predicts a two-horse Presidential race — Tharman and Tan Kin Lian – Singapore News 

Ng Kok Song confident in mounting a good challenge against Tharman – Singapore News 

“Singapore’s presidency a consolation prize for Tharman” — Prominent historian