President Tan spent less on campaign than Tan Cheng Bock

Posted on 05 October 2011

$80,000 to be exact, which is the equivalent of 25,000 plates of chicken rice.

By Terence Lee

Hey big spender! Photo: Tan Ding Xiang

Now here’s a shocker: President Tony Tan, who drives around in a stylish Mercedes Benz and earned his millions as former deputy prime minister, actually spent $80,000 less than runner-up Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a real-life doctor and former Member-of-Parliament.

The Elections Department released the Presidential Campaign expense details yesterday. For those with goldfish memory (including me), Dr Tan lost by a heartbreaking 0.34 percent of the popular vote. Many of my friends — the youngish twenty-somethings — voted for him because he was seen as a moderate.

Here’s the final tally: Tan Cheng Bock — $585,045.03, Tony Tan — $503,070, Tan Jee Say — $162,337, and Tan Kin Lian — $70,912.16.

The surprises end there.

While Cheng Bock spent more money on the campaign, it was obvious that he faced tremendous odds — Tony Tan was the favorite to win right from the start and he had massive support from the older generation and PAP die-hards.

Famous personalities vouched for him too, including the likes of millionaire Adam Khoo, actress Sharon Au, and swim coach Ang Peng Siong.

Further, Tony Tan probably has some help from the massive People’s Association machinery, which meant he needn’t spend as much on the campaign. That allegation came from the rumor-mongering Temasek Review, so I can’t vouch for it.

If only Cheng Bock didn’t waste money on his useless iPhone app…

As for Tan Kin Lian, it turned out that he got exactly what he paid for. His main campaign weakness wasn’t that he had a bad logo or idiotic videos of himself demonstrating an optical illusion, but rather that he a) never had much support in the first place, b) didn’t bother to raise enough money, c) didn’t go all out to spend, or d) was over-confident and thought he had done enough.

$70,000, mind you, is less than 20 percent of what Tan Cheng Bock forked out for his campaign. Kin Lian ended up only with about 5 percent of the votes.

There’s isn’t much more I want to say about campaign spending, other than to point out that the amount of funds raised is probably a good gauge of a candidate’s ability and popularity.

Common sense tells me that savvier candidates are better at finding the most optimal fund-raising strategies. They probably have deeper pockets themselves, as well as the ability to solicit donations from supportive (and rich) voters.

Also,  Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock, by virtue their appeal to the largest voting blocs in Singapore, are more likely to receive a large heap of donations.

There’s a final lesson we can glean from all this: It pays to be a moderate in Singapore for now — and by that I mean possessing the ability to appeal to the middle ground.

Just ask the Worker’s Party.

This post was written by:

- who has written 81 posts on New Nation.

Terence is an online media nut that is obsessed with writing and publishing on the Internet. Recently, he took up photography to expand his repertoire, and hopes to learn videography soon. He has worked in both online and print publications such as The Straits Times, Today, Mind Your Body, The Online Citizen, and Funkygrad. He is currently the assistant editor with SGEntrepreneurs, a website that covers entrepreneurship in Singapore and Asia. Terence can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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