Tan Jee Say: Why raise presidential election criteria?
The idea of raising the bar for presidential candidates is not to prevent "difficult" people from running for office, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a televised interview on Sunday about the Elected Presidency.
But the PM's words did not sit well with ex-presidential hopeful Tan Jee Say.
If the Constitutional Commission's recommendations to tighten the qualifying criteria for candidates are accepted, Mr Tan, 62, will be ruled out.
The former civil servant, who stood in the 2011 Presidential Election (PE), had intended to stand again until he learnt of the recommendations.
He told The New Paper yesterday: "I'm disappointed. The (new) rules are unnecessary. They should let me, Cheng Bock, and those who have run before (take part).
"If the PM says he has no ulterior motive, then make it very clear that he's not trying to get rid of competition."
Mr Tan won 25 per cent of votes in the 2011 PE to place third, behind Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is now the President, and former MP Tan Cheng Bock, in a four-way fight.
He had qualified in 2011 because of his regional managing director position at AIB Govett, an asset management company, from 1997 to 2001.
Calling the tightening of criteria a "wrong step", Mr Tan said: "They say that if we do not tighten the criteria, then the number of people qualifying will be so large.
"Why should that be a problem? Shouldn't we welcome it - a bigger pool, more choices?"
He added that candidates with higher qualifications may end up representing a smaller segment of the population.
"Will they understand the feelings of the people? After all, we are talking about an elected officer here."
He also had strong words for the recommendation of a "hiatus-triggered model", where a contest is reserved for candidates of a certain race if there has not been a president from that particular race for five terms.
This system will help ensure that the president, as the symbolic head of state, remains a multiracial institution.
Mr Tan said this was "totally unnecessary".
"We have been doing fine at racial integration since PAP (People's Action Party) came into power. We've been spending lots of time, effort, and it's been a success.
"Having a reserved election is like the Government admitting it has failed in bringing races together. To move from racial integration to entitlement... it's a backward step," he said.
Referring to US President Barack Obama, Mr Tan said the US did not need a reserved election to vote in its first African-American president in 2008.
"We don't have the kind of racial riots and all the racial trouble (in the US). Yet we are doing this. Why?"
Mr Tan saw the move as politicising the presidency and introducing racial issues.
"Race was never an issue. Why bring it out now?" he asked.