Whether they like it or not, the next President of Singapore will not be voted into office by Singaporeans.
Rather, she will have been elected by means of a walkover – other Malay candidates were allowed to contest despite their sterling credentials.
The Presidential Elections Committee paved the way for Mdm Halimah Yacob to be appointed president, after it barred businessmen Salleh Marican and Farid Khan from contesting.
It had the discretion to approve their candidacy despite them not meeting the eligibility criteria for private sector candidates, but chose not to.
This has led to many taking to social media to complain the that PE2017 was “rigged” in favour of Mdm Halimah.
Those allegations are unfounded, and perhaps stem from the frustration among Singaporeans at Mdm Halimah’s “Walkover Win”.
Still, questions have been raised as a result of this, especially since PE2011 candidate Tan Jee Say was given the go-ahead despite being even further off the mark when it came to the eligibility criteria.
Tan Jee Say
He didn’t meet the criteria for private sector candidates.
Still, the Presidential Elections Committee exercised its discretion and gave him the green light.
Tan, a former Principle Private Secretary of former Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, had been regional managing director for asset management firm AIG Govett (Asia) from Feb 1997 to Mar 2001.
AIG Govett (Asia) didn’t meet the paid-up capital requirement of S$100 million as required under the eligibility criteria.
The requirement for eligibility to contest: the private sector candidate had to have been a chairman or CEO of a company with paid-up capital of at least S$100 million.
Tan was only the managing director of AIG Govett (Asia), which again, didn’t meet the S$100 million paid-up capital requirement.
Tan went to contest in the 4-Tans Presidential Election, together with Tony Tan, Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Kin Lian.
He came in 3rd, winning 25 percent of the vote.
It was likely that as a result of his contest, Dr Tan Cheng Bock lost by eventual president Dr Tony Tan by less than 1 percent of the vote (35.2 percent vs 34.8 percent).
PE2017 Private Sector Candidate Requirements
In 2017, the criteria for private sector candidates was raised.
Private sector candidates had to have shareholder’s equity of S$500 million in a company and had to be leading decision-makers in their firms.
He controlled S$250 million of equity in Second Chance.
His candidacy was rejected by the Presidential Elections Committee on the grounds the he didn’t meet the criteria for private sector candidates.
The company operated a fleet of more than 500 vessels in 2016 and has about 9,300 employees in 45 countries.
Mr Khan was also rejected from contesting after the Presidential Elections Committee ruled that he didn’t meet the eligibility criteria for private sector candidates.
But Mr Salleh and Mr Farid were barred because of the private sector credentials.
Why then the Elections Dept not exercise discretion to allow both men to run, considering they among Singapore’s most decorated businessmen to be certified as Malay?
How much better of a choice did we have considering their credentials, which were comparatively better than Tan’s?
Why was Tan Jee Say allowed to contest in PE2011 despite not meeting the eligibility criteria, and with the race already crowded with 3 candidates?
The Presidential Elections Committee has the discretion not to publicly address these questions.
But it is best if it does so as to quell allegations of a “rigged” election, and so Singaporeans can have clearer insights into what makes – or breaks – a prospective president.