SINGAPORE: A significant number of Singaporeans online have censured Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chairman Tan Cheng Bock after he publicly endorsed presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian on Sunday morning (27 Aug).
Mr Tan Kin Lian has received support from some of the smaller opposition parties but a series of questionable social media posts he made between 2020 and 2022, commenting on “pretty,” “young,” and “slim” girls in public, have drawn accusations of sexism and misogyny from both ordinary citizens and more prominent voices.
Endorsing Mr. Tan over the weekend, after days of silence over which horse he is backing in the looming presidential election, Dr Tan Cheng Bock called the criticism Mr Tan Kin Lian is facing “gutter politics”.
This is despite the fact that Mr Tan Kin Lian’s rivals – ex-Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and ex-GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song – have declined to comment on the controversy involving Mr Tan.
Extolling the value of a “truly independent president,” Dr Tan Cheng Bock appealed on Sunday: “Today, I Tan Cheng Bock want to plead with you to stand for what is right. Love your country by supporting the cause for an independent president. Your one vote counts make it worth it.”
His appeal has largely drawn criticism online. Although the PSP chair said that he is making this endorsement in his personal capacity and not as a representative of his party, Singaporeans online have slammed his decision to take such a stance given Mr Tan’s social media posts and his justifications for his posts.
Some have even said they are happy in retrospect that Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam won the 2011 Presidential election, which Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr Tan Kin Lian contested. Dr Tony Tan won by a hair with 35.2 percent of the vote, compared to Dr Tan Chen Bock’s 34.85 percent.
Mr Tan Kin Lian lost his election deposit with less than 5 percent of the vote while the other candidate, Mr Tan Jee Say, garnered just over a quarter of the votes. Mr Tan Jee Say is Mr Tan Kin Lian’s proposer in this presidential election. Dr Tan called both Mr Tans his “comrades” when they appeared together over the weekend.
Some Singaporeans online have also said they will not forget Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s support for Mr. Tan Kin Lian when general elections come, suggesting that the PSP will pay the price for their chair’s endorsement.
Asserting that Dr Tan’s endorsement is “disappointing” and even “disgusting,” Singaporeans on Twitter have said that the hard work of other members of the PSP – particularly non-constituency members of parliament (NCMP) Hazel Poa and Leong Mun Wai – risks being wasted by their party founder’s actions.
Young Singaporean influencer Boblet went so far as to personally message Dr Tan, expressing his disappointment. He told Dr Tan, “I don’t think I can look at you or your party the same way anymore because it just seems like (you) don’t care about the presidency but instead, have an agenda you want to push.”
Dr Tan said repeatedly on Sunday that he was “not here as a politician for this election” but was surrounded by ex-party members, including Michelle Lee and Brad Bowyer.
When asked whether his endorsement would impact the PSP’s performance at the next general election, Dr. Tan acknowledged that there is always a risk in every decision but said he believes voters will vote based on the performance of the party and its two NCMPs.
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