Opinion: Tan Kin Lian Seems An Unlikely Presidential Candidate But Chaotic Energy Wins Him Fans

This piece is part of MS Speaks, a segment in which MS News reporters share their honest views on current affairs and trending topics.

Tan Kin Lian’s Overly Candid Comments May Be Seen As Genuineness By Fans

Since the presidential hopefuls announced their bids for candidacy, they’ve been more active on social media, which helps voters form impressions of them. Particularly enthusiastic about posting is two-time candidate and former NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lian.

Source: Tan Kin Lian on Facebook

His supposed independence lends him an appeal to voters who see Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Mr Ng Kok Song as figures with links to the establishment.

However, the directness of Mr Tan’s Facebook posts — while scandalous — may be what’s winning some people over, even if they may not necessarily vote for him in the end.

Sometimes gets away with being borderline offensive on social media

The questionable nature of Mr Tan’s Facebook posts was only raised after he announced his bid to run for President, but he had actually long been penning such captions.

Some of them seemed superficially harmless, though observant folks may detect nuances of racism. For instance, on 19 Aug, Mr Tan shared that a Malay driver had transported him from Kranji MRT to Bollywood Veggies, as though there was something to laugh about.

Source: Tan Kin Lian on Facebook

While some people may read into it and become incensed, the accompanying photo showing Mr Tan and the driver smiling genuinely may come across as wholesome to others.

In Oct 2021, Mr Tan posted about another experience, this time on a public bus. He claimed that he was “sitting next to a pretty girl” whom he “cannot show”.

Source: Tan Kin Lian on Facebook

This was apparently not the first time the 75-year-old had posted about “pretty girls”, something that members of the public began to realise.

Tan Kin Lian Addresses Past Facebook Posts About ‘Pretty Girls’, Says Most Find Them Lighthearted & Fun

The Association for Women’s Action and Research (AWARE) eventually raised concerns about the posts in a statement on 21 Aug, accusing Mr Tan of objectifying women.

Instead of apologising right away, he called the criticism “malicious”, while his supporters blamed AWARE for turning the tide against him.

It was only later that Mr Tan Kin Lian apologised to women who felt “uncomfortable” with his remarks and expressed his intention to reach out to AWARE.

To some, his remorse might have been too little, too late, but I think it was all part of the gameplay.

Though his methods are unconventional, there’s no denying that Mr Tan knows how to draw attention and keep his name on the tips of everyone’s tongues.

Most posts by Tan Kin Lian are random & relatable

When he’s not saying things that could upset people, Mr Tan’s random Facebook posts can be quite amusing and relatable.

Take this one from Aug 2022 for instance. He made a joke out of “smart people” ignoring his comments about crypto, presumably because he didn’t understand it.

Source: Tan Kin Lian on Facebook

But then several Singapore-based crypto platforms crashed and “many investors lost most or all their savings”. This was apparently exactly what he had been wary about – implying that Tan Kin Lian was not “stupid” after all.

If he isn’t criticising Government agencies, Mr Tan does what any regular, elderly Singaporean would do online — complain about prices and share hacks.

Months before his crypto post, Mr Tan posted about his purchase from an ABC store, a bargain shop famous for its “fire sales”.

Source: Tan Kin Lian on Facebook

He allegedly paid S$1 for 10 sachets of cappuccino, which meant that each one only cost him S$0.10. This is far less than what he would pay at a café.

If citizens can’t relate to jargon, what better way to connect with them than through run-of-the-mill scenarios like this, right?

Mr Tan may not win the youths’ favour but perhaps he could appeal to bargain-hunting aunties and uncles.

Fans like his directness

Sure, his unpredictable online presence lacks the dignity we’d expect of a representative of the country. But when it doesn’t cross the line into being offensive, it often endears him to fans.

In his own way, Mr Tan is appealing to a group of voters that are likely tired of the political jargon in other candidates’ rhetoric.

Source: Tan Kin Lian on Facebook

Unlike Mr Tan, fellow candidates Mr Tharman and Mr Ng showcase more formal speeches and curated soundbites on their pages. Therefore, his eccentric social media presence is a breath of fresh air.

Even if he doesn’t end up getting a lot of votes, Mr Tan could still gather more than before. Some may come from folks who want to give the meticulously calibrated nature of the election their cheeky dissent.

In the world of politics where scripted statements often dominate, Mr Tan’s unfiltered and candid communication style appears groundbreaking.

A unique candidate with valid opinions

Studying Mr Tan’s campaign, what we see at first glance is a snafu of unmoderated posts and off-the-cuff remarks.

But look past these to the posts where his decorum isn’t in question and you might see that he makes some agreeable points. Examples include younger Singaporeans’ concerns about jobs, housing and cost of living.

Even if you don’t find those statements convincing, Mr Tan’s uniqueness in comparison to other candidates is unarguable.

While seemingly an unlikely contender, his chaotic energy could be what endears him to voters. This could also earn him votes at the polls.

Otherwise, his offbeat demeanour at least reminds us that we could all use a touch of levity in our lives, even when talking about politics.

Note: The views expressed within this article are the author’s own.

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Featured image adapted from Tan Kin Lian on Facebook and Facebook.

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