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Singapore's 'walkover' presidential election draws public criticism

13 September, 2017, 05:50 | Author: Jeff Stephens
  • Nicholas Yong Yahoo News Singapore11 September 2017

While the office of president is largely a ceremonial role in Singapore, he or she has power to veto some of the government's decisions, for example in fiscal matters that touch on the country's reserves, or key appointments in the public service. But what could have been a notable milestone for Singapore's democracy is instead being publicly questioned as a rigged process, and her legitimacy is already coming under fire.

She is referred to as "Madam" Halimah Yacob in local media outlets.

If anyone wishes to raise objections to her becoming President, these objections must be made in writing, signed by the objector and made between 11 am and 12.30 pm on Nomination Day, the Elections Department said.

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The Elections Department said only one of five hopefuls had qualified. For example, those from the private sector are required to be a chief executive of a company, with at least $370 million in shareholders' equity. "I would like to invite Singaporeans to work together with me, so that we can work together for a united Singapore and a much stronger Singapore".

President Yusof Ishak was Singapore's first President and the only Malay to have held the office till he died in 1970.

The electoral rule requiring the candidate to be Malay was instituted to ensure that a member of the ethnic group would have the chance to serve as president.

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Singapore's area is only around 710 square kilometers, and its population is less than 6 million but despite its small area, it is the fourth leading financial center in the world.

The rising threat of terrorism makes unity crucial, said outgoing President Tony Tan. It is 74.3 per cent Chinese, 13.4 per cent Malay, 9.1 per cent Indian and 3.2 per cent others. That meant that this year's election was reserved for someone from Singapore's minority Malay community.

Eugene Tan, an associate law professor at Singapore Management University, told The New York Times that there has been a "groundswell" of criticism online about the lack of an election.

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Halimah, 62, will be Singapore's eighth President and the first woman to hold the position as the country's Head of State. "It is not a surprise therefore that there is unfamiliarity with it, a questioning of whether any of it is needed, and a sense of ambivalence about having only candidates of one racial group contest in it", said Gillian Koh, a senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

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