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Tan Kin Lian is the new synonym for “hubris”

Tan Kin Lian is the new synonym for “hubris”

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The reasons for Tan Kin Lian’s loss are plenty. But his loss is an endorsement of the democratic process of voting that validates the masses.

By Belmont Lay

tan kin lianAs far as I’m concerned, Tan Kin Lian’s failure to make a dent in this presidential election is no one’s fault but his.

There was never any organised campaign to discredit him. (He did that mostly by himself.)

There was no known group who stridently denounced him. No one forced him into a misstep.

He was guided along the way by volunteers, some of whom were seasoned General Election candidates.

And as far as the media was concern, they were more than accommodating when it came to reports about him.

He, therefore, had reasons to feel good.

On the morning of polling day, Tan Kin Lian said, “I believe this contest will be very close… There is a large group of people in the silent majority making a decision and I am quite confident that I will do well”.


After garnering 4.91 percent or 103,931 votes when the results were tallied, he turned tail, conceded and is $48,000 poorer.

Not to mention, he spent an additional $70,000 on the campaign trail. And that is other people’s money that he received as donations.

Tan Kin Lian is now asking, “I want to know what can be improved. I don’t know why (I lost) and I hope people will tell me. I want to hear their reason.”

I do know why he lost. Likewise for many others who won’t be holding back answers.

So here goes.

Nanyang Technological University associate professor Cherian George said his poor showing was expected: “Tan Kin Lian had some experience as an activist, but no experience as a politician, so it was hard for him to translate his beliefs into an effective campaign”.

George also said, “Tan Kin Lian was outflanked on the right by Tan Cheng Bock and on the left by Tan Jee Say”.

Singapore Management University law lecturer Eugene Tan said the four-cornered fight did Kin Lian in.

Eugene said, “In a crowded field, he became the forgotten candidate. Perhaps he suffered from a credibility problem right from the word go.

“His 2009 effort to secure 100,000 signatures before he would run for presidency did not succeed. His decision to run in 2011 was greeted with some amount of doubt and incredulity.

“While he’s seen as someone who spoke up for investors who were misled, the good Samaritan or David vs Goliath approach did not necessarily translate to wider perceptions of suitability for the President’s office”.

NUS political analyst Reuben Wong attributed Kin Lian’s staying on the sidelines in the General Election in May as a mistake.

There is no natural constituency for him as a result.

And not to mention, Kin Lian is prone to sabotaging himself.

Kin Lian got chased out of shopping centres for doing walkabouts. (What were his volunteers thinking?)

He even handed out fliers during the memorial ceremony of Internal Security Act detainee Tan Jing Quee.

If you even know the people who would attend the memorial ceremony of an ex-political detainee, this act of campaigning during such a sanctimonious session is the equivalent of lap-dancing during Mass.

And then there were the revelations about his job at NTUC Income: His 30-year career came under scrutiny.

Policyholders and ex-colleagues pointed out his bad investments, which he shrugged off as business decisions.

His sudden departure in 2007 was revealed to be due to differences with him and the board, which later said they wanted the insurance cooperative to be more professionally run. (Ahem…)

Kin Lian has been described by his detractors as a senior insurance salesman.

And when you think what can be so difficult about being professional, you get hit in the face by Kin Lian’s populist proposals.

He pledged to donate half of his president’s salary to charity, give more to national servicemen and pay pensions to the elderly.

Eugene Tan said, “These were not really within the ambit of the elected presidency’s office as delineated in the Constitution. But the proposals thrown up made him look opportunistic and that only took more wind out of his sail at the closing stages of the campaign”

So are we done pointing out his faults?

No, no, we just started.

Next, his campaign logo sucks.

Okay, the 5% was not added by us, or him.

Is it ominous or what? It shows a drowning man’s hand. Shouting for help.

Besides not being able to craft a sleeker logo, Kin Lian neither possesses a statesman demeanour, nor does he speak fluently. (Reminds one of Lim Swee Say actually, of “better, betterer, betterest” fame.)

Chen Show Mao has a statesman demeanour. Reluctantly, His Leeness also has a statesman demeanour.

Even with his disco ball head, Tharman Shanmugaratnam has a statesman stature.

And most importantly, head-of-states don’t do high-fives. Only evil clowns out to get children do.

His flip-flopping over whether to contest in this election and the conditional terms he set out for his contest to be president are not indicators of someone who appears as very confident about his own chances.

And then there was the talk that he considered pulling out.

Hey, seriously, if you go in blind, you come out blind.

So how is Tan Kin Lian’s loss a validation of democratic voting?

For one, the collective crowd can be a good judge of value.

When not queuing up in masses overnight for Hello Kitty plush toys thinking they are worth it, the collective intelligence and judgement call of very large groups of people can be pretty good at picking up on cues as to what’s good for them and what’s not.

Which leaves me with my point of today’s missive: The Hello Kitty crowd that bothers to queue overnight for plush toys? I believe they make up that deluded five percent that actually voted for Kin Lian.