The most keenly-contested Presidential Election lived up to its billing as the race went down to the wire. After a three-hour recount early this morning, former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, 71, clinched victory over ex-Ayer Rajah MP Tan Cheng Bock, 71, by just 0.34 per cent – or 7,269 – of the votes.
The early concession of defeat by former NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lian, barely two hours after the vote count got underway, belied the later drama. The lead changed hands several times throughout the night, according to unofficial updates from the four candidates’ counting agents across the 162 counting centres.
At about 1.10am, news filtered through that Dr Tony Tan had won by garnering about 8,000 votes more than his closest rival, Dr Tan Cheng Bock. Minutes later, the Elections Department issued a statement to announce a recount. Under the rules, a recount can be requested by candidates or their counting agents when the difference in votes received by the top two candidates is not more than 2 per cent of the total number of valid votes cast.
At about 4.25am, the results were announced by Returning Officer Yam Ah Mee.
Speaking to reporters after his victory, Dr Tony Tan reiterated that the President is “a President for all Singaporeans”. “Not only for those who had voted for me but also for those who had not voted for me,” he added. “I pledge to (do) my utmost for each and every Singaporean, whatever be their political affiliation.”
In a statement, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked the four candidates for putting themselves forward. “This was an intensely-fought election, and the result was very close,” Mr Lee said. Both frontrunners had “conveyed strong unifying messages, and declared their intention to work closely with the Government”. He added: “Both have long records of public service – Dr Tony Tan in many roles in Government, and Dr Tan Cheng Bock as a highly-respected backbench MP. It is reassuring that Singaporean voters recognised and valued their strengths, as well as their inclusive approach.”
Mr Lee noted that voters “faced a difficult choice” between Dr Tony Tan and Dr Tan Cheng Bock. “This explains why the winning margin is so narrow, and why the winner only gained slightly more than one-third of the total votes. Nevertheless, under our first-past-the-post system, the election has produced an unambiguous winner, who has the mandate to be the next President.”
Mr Lee said he had called Dr Tony Tan to congratulate him and “assure him of my Government’s full cooperation”. He also thanked Dr Tan Cheng Bock and his supporters “for having fought an effective and dignified campaign”.
Mr Lee added: “Now that the election is over, we should all come together again as Singaporeans, to tackle the challenges that Singapore faces, and take our nation forward.”
– Singapore Today