I don’t usually like blogging about politics but in this case, this is so stupid that I have to say something.

First, a quick recap. The recent Singapore Presidential Elections saw an unprecedented four candidates contesting for the job; Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former MP for Ayer Rajah and Chuan Hup Chairman; Dr Tony Tan, former DPM and chairman of SPH; Mr Tan Kin Lian, former NTUC income CEO and Mr Tan Jee Say, recent contestant of GE2011. What is old news by now is that Dr Tony Tan won the elections with a tiny margin of some 7,ooo votes or some 0.3+% (before accounting for overseas votes which wouldn’t have made a difference to the outcome).

Now, many people have come out in criticism of Mr Tan Kin Lian (5% of votes) and Mr Tan Jee Say (20% of votes) for handing the presidency to Dr Tony Tan- I fully concur. The irony is that voters who voted for the opposition ended up gifting the presidency to the most obviously PAP-backed candidate. Oh well, my beef is isn’t about that but rather I like to use Mr Tan Kin Lian’s post-PE press statement to highlight a one thing- that this is a classic case of Delusion/Cognitive Dissonance.

Way before the PE, Mr Tan Kin Lian (after being a hero to ‘minibombs’ holders) had said that he would run for the Elected Presidency (EP) is he managed to get 100,000 signatures; He got something like 1,000  or two, not that it matters. Then he said that he was running because he wanted to give people a contest- which people got when the two Dr Tans joined in the fray.

Now comes this dasterdly press statement. (full statement here) Relevant extracts below:

As always, the wisdom of hindsight never fails but the truth was that on nomination day, the voters were still largely undecided on whom they would be voting, if at all. My private surveys as well as information from a third party survey pointed to a credible level of support for me. I had also expected strong support from the heartlanders and the over 1 million policyholders of NTUC Income (where I had served for 30 years) as well as many people who remembered my advocacy of public causes and the plight of those who suffered investment losses during the last financial crisis.

From a brief, informal survey of the online chatter and friends, it was pretty easy to know that not many people were going to vote for Tan Kin Lian (TKL). In fact, a rough sensing of was that the older, very conservative folks were gunning for Tony Tan (TT), the pro-opposition moderates were gunning for Tan Cheng Bock (TCB) or Tan Jee Say (TJS) and the hardcore opposition supporters were voting for TJS. As for TKL, he probably had some minibond holders and a few idealists on his side. Ex-NSP sec-gen Goh Meng Seng was the perfect example. BTW, whoever did does surveys for him ought to be shot.

Anyway, it would have been difficult for me to drop out of the contest at nomination date. I would have disappointed the people who wanted to vote for me and also my supporters, who had put in a lot of work during the previous six weeks and my donors.

There was also the risk that I would be considered a coward or a quitter or someone who was never serious about the election. Most importantly, I felt that I could offer a choice of a different platform for Singaporeans to decide.

Now, this I feel is a classic problem of denial. They find the perfect excuse to not face the truth. In this case, the truth was that support for TKL was increadibly low but I don’t think TKL wanted to acknowledge that.

My post mortem should that there were a few weaknesses in my campaign strategy, my image and messaging. I shall not go into them in detail. The clear and positive message, sent in by many people after the results including those who did not vote for me, was that I was seen to be “sincere, courageous and spoke for Singaporeans”. I like to thank them for their support, understanding and encouraging words.

Now, I’m not sure who was on his election committee but they did a damn lousy job. TKL’s hi-5 at the end of his nomination day speech was the joke of the day and if his election committee didn’t point that out, I have only two things to conclude- 1) He surrounds himself with ‘yes-men’ as the rumours said or 2) TKL doesn’t really listen to criticism very well.

I would also make the point that it was really up to the last candidate to withdraw as his platform was similar to mine in several respects. In the arena of natural justice, it is really only fair that the last one in should bear the responsibility for the outcome of the changed situation.

This is a silly point really because the facts show that TJS had a greater vote share which means that he was the better candidate. Why should the last one to sign up drop out of the examination if he/she could get a better chance of passing it?

I had also given a choice to the people of Singapore of a truly non-partisan platform. I respect their decision at this time but hope that the non-partisan concept embodied in my platform will find their support in the future.

I am willing to continue the work of being “the voice of the people”. If there is sufficient interest and support from other interested people, I will create a new website and mechanism to implement this role. If not, I will try to play this role in a smaller way.

What is TKL saying?? It’s obvious voters are voting along partisan lines! After having gotten just 5% of the votes, he still wants to be a ‘Voice of the people’? TKL needs to learn to listen first.

So TKL, listen up!

For someone who wanted to be the voice of the people, how did he get it so wrong? That’s simple. TKL obviously suffers from denial. Being an idealist doesn’t win- Goh Meng Seng should have taught him a lesson or two on this. TJS would have known too. Party politics was obviously very much in play, TKL should have identified which kind of political party voters he was going for and gone for them. The fact that he didn’t get the endorsement of any GE candidates showed what a lack of support he had. The fact that he even went ahead with his laughable campaign antics (hi-fives, his primary school style of reading off his presidential broadcast, the horribly scripted speech) showed that he wasn’t listening, either to his team or the people.

This is just classic denial/cognitive dissonance and it can happen to anyone.

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