Presidential walkover expected, but still left some disappointed

Halimah Yacob giving her acceptance speech at the Nomination Center after being declared president of Singapore. CAMPUS EYE/ Tan Jian Zhong

By Tan Jian Zhong

SINGAPORE, Sept 11 (Campus Eye) – Singaporeans did not get to vote in the 2017 presidential election after the Elections Department announced on Wednesday that former parliament speaker Halimah Yacob would be the only eligible applicant.

For this year’s reserved election, applicants were required to obtain two certificates to run in the contest – a Certificate of Community from the Community Committee (CC) to prove that they belong to the Malay community, and a Certificate of Eligibility from the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) to show that they fulfil election criteria.

On Tuesday, the Elections Department announced that only one of five applicants was issued both certificates. This meant that citizens would not be required to vote and that there would be a walkover.

For some Singaporeans, this outcome was expected.

“They (PEC) basically made the whole thing easy for politicians and difficult for [applicants from] the private sector,” said Joel Tan, a 28 year-old teacher.

Paul Jerusalem, 23 year-old undergraduate from Yale-NUS College, said, “If this were another country, the expressways would probably be filled and the country would probably be in at least three days of unrest.”

There were others who were skeptical about Halimah’s performance.

“I was not surprised, and I still think people should have had the choice to vote even if Halimah Yacob was going to win … We don’t even know what Halimah is capable of,” said Valerie Lim, a 25 year-old customer relations specialist.

Sarasvathiy, a 22 year-old undergraduate from the Department of Communications and New Media at NUS, was also not surprised at the outcome.

“I guess they were planning for this… and to be honest, I don’t think having a business valued at that amount means you have the capabilities to become a president,” she added.

Dr Eugene Tan, associate professor from the School of Law at the Singapore Management University (SMU), said he was disappointed but had expected the outcome since it was an uphill task for two other applicants Farid Khan and Salleh Marican right from the start.

“Only Madam Halimah qualified automatically and the deliberative route to qualification is also fraught with uncertainty, not helped that Mr Marican and Mr Khan fell short of the financial requirement by a considerable margin, going by information available publicly on the companies they ran,” said Dr. Tan.

While Dr Woo Jun Jie, assistant professor from the School of Humanities and Social Science at the National Technological University (NTU), had expected the outcome of the election to be a walkover since the other two candidates, Farid Khan and Salleh Marican had fallen far short of the $500 million shareholders’ equity requirement, he did not expect the PEC to bypass the paid-up capital requirement.

“This would set a bad precedent for future elections, reserved or not,” added Dr. Woo.

Some Singaporeans were unhappy with the outcome, but Dr. Tan said that the PEC had to apply the requirements as mandated by the Constitution.

“It’s an anti-climatic end to the much debated reserved election process.”

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