Thursday, July 21, 2011

Politictisation of the Presidency

It would be naive to think that the Presidency can remain beyond politics. Even in the British Monarchy, Prince Charles had often vexed Tony Blair with his very public advice on how to run Her Majesty's government. LOL.

Well, we aren't British even if our governance is deeply rooted with them.

My question: Is it possible to avoid the politictisation our Presidency when the position is an elected one. Once you open up for voting, you are as good as opening Pandora's Box. What's left is trying to dissuade the political ghost from escaping the box.

Every candidate wants to win as surely as every newspaper also want to succeed with the readers and advertisers (Think Rupert Murdoch). What happened? Politictisation of the highest office of the land is no longer a matter of if, but when. The boundaries, yes, there is probably more than one clear black line on white ground, means we will always be testing the limits whenever there is a keen contest and bumbling into a broad swathe of gray. Before we know it, we had gone overboard and there is no returning. This office is easily damaged and very difficult to repair.

I am two minds about the EP being a good idea. The British and most other places do not elect their monarchs. If we put longer term considerations aside, I detect that a large segment of the population wants an elected president as a short term response to send a clear signal to the government. It is a deplorable mandate hijack but obviously unavoidable. Don't bother to throw the constitution at the people. It is meaningless to most of us. That is also why national constitutions are often not honored in many countries.

Ho Kwon Ping was more realistic and to the point than Wan Wai Yee. In fact, Mr. Ho would also qualify as a presidential candidate had he offered himself. Imagine how he might use the soft power of the office.


  1. Wan Wai Yee is a studious academic whereas Ho Kwon Ping is a national public figure cum examplary businessman who was once a street-wise political activist and dissident during his student days.

    Based on credentials and experience alone, HKP's take of the EP's soft powers beyond the rigid definition of the constitution absolutely makes better sense.

    Why so much interested opinions of the EP in the Msm now when there was only muted interests over the past 18 years. Because the political landscape has changed and definitely changed beyond the EP's originator's wildest dreams. Short of another walkover, a contested election will mean sides have to be taken which means the EP cannot be politically neutral.

    WWY's published opinion on the EP in the ST today (21/07/11) is like telling you how a rice cooker should be operated in accordance to the instruction manual. It is like she is saying that this rice cooker should be used to cook plain rice; except that there is nothing in the manual to say that apart from that, you cannot try cooking chicken rice, nasi branyani, meat porridge or even some special recipe which the user may want to experiment upon, and who knows the outcome could be better than envisaged.

  2. Isn't it a fact that every EP in the past and the present were PAP approved?

    Where does the 'non-politicization' of the EP comes in?

    In any case, can people vote for an EP of their choice without being political about it?

    It's time we tell the govt that we have enough of this wayang and hypocritical behaviour on its part by voting for anyone but the one so obviously supported by the govt.

    The govt deserves a tight slap! It needs that to wake up!

  3. In Singapore, when you drive a vehicle on the road and decides to do a U-turn, you are not allow to do so unless there is a U-turn sign ahead of you. This U-turn rule is specified in the local traffic code.

    Sim Wong Hoo, Creative Technology's founder call this rule the "No U-Turn Syndrome" - in short NUTS, which is reflective of our unique Singaporean mentality. As compare to his driving experience in USA where you can U-turn anywhere anytime you like unless there is a sign telling you otherwise. Such sign is usually there to warn of danger or prevent possible mishaps. Culturally, what it means is that you are can do anything you want unless the law or rule-book explicitly state otherwise. Conversely, in the Singapore context, you are NOT allowed to do anything other unless the law or rule-book explicitly permit you to do so. Where the rules are silent or unclear, you must get permission or clearance from the 'proper authority' first, something which most people from developed nations find bewildering.

    The EP contest expected before August 2011 is giving the establishment a headache because the outcome at best is uncertain and at the worse scenario, the endorsed candidate may even lose his deposit. That's why since the news that there are alternative credible candidates throwing their hats into the ring, there is this relentless rant by incumbent ministers and even ex-ministers trying to clarify the rule book, no different to driving instructors rehashing the rules of the highway code.

    The thrust of the mainstream media is to repetitively stress and pound on what the Constitution explicitly prescribe. Orchestrated publication of essays from Tommy Koh, Ho Kwon Ping and Wan Wai Yee etc aside the frequent editors' commentaries from ST's senior ex-ISD editorial staff tells a story. But as written laws are man-made, it can never encompass all scenarios and situations. How about situations where the law is silent or where grey area have not been considered. What is there to prevent a non endorsed president from pushing and testing his boundaries? It's about time to break the NUTS!

  4. The presidency became politicised when Kuan Yew decided to change the presidency from a purely ceremonial function based on appointment to an elected position with executive powers.

    By allowing the people to decide who their president should be, the EP became a politicized. It is ridiculous to avoid the politicization of the presidential role when candidates for the position present themselves to the general populace. Politicking is not negative but part of any process which involves the implementation of mandates given to elected officials.

    The issue is not "dont politicise" the EP but the sort of of politics which is evolving in relation to the elected presidency and the manner the elected president chooses to exercise the mandate given to him directly by the people.

    Kuan Yew should have thought about these matters when he changed the nature of the president's office.