PE2017: 10 Controversies Surrounding Halimah Yacob’s “Walkover Win”

There’s been much controversy surrounding the reserved Presidential Election this year, even before candidates started campaigning.

Well, that’s possibly because there’s only 1 candidate and as such there won’t be any campaigning.

Mdm Halimah Yacob is set to be appointed Singapore’s next president, after her 2 closest competitors were barred from running.

We’ll let you take a look at the controversial circumstances surrounding her “walkover win”.

(1) Higher Criteria for Private Sector Candidates but Status Quo for Public Sector Candidates?

The government raised the qualifying criteria for private sector, only allowing those who were chairman or CEO of companies with S$500 million shareholders’ equity to contest.

This was up from PE2011, where private sector candidates only needed to be chairman or CEO of a company with S$100 million paid-up capital.

Mdm Halimah had been Speaker for 4 years before her resignation.

Public sector candidates must have held office for a period of 3 or more years as Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker (insert “Halimah Yacob” here), Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General, or Permanent Secretary to qualify.

The Constitutional Commission recommended that the tenure of qualifying candidates be raised from 3 years to 6 years.

But, the government rejected this recommendation.

(2) Halimah Broke Election Campaigning Rules? No Lah…

The Election’s Department stated on its website that “candidates can only start their election campaigns from the close of nomination, and up to before the eve of Polling Day”.

Mdm Halimah launched a website on 25 Aug in which she outlined the kind of president she would like to be and called on Singaporeans to “join me in my journey”.

When queried, the ELD said:

“It is not an offence for a prospective candidate, who has declared himself as seeking nomination as a candidate at an election, to campaign before Nomination Day.”

(3) Presidential Elections Committee Exercised Discretion for Some but not Others?

Remember Tan Jee Say from PE2011?

He failed to meet the requirements for eligibility to contest as a private sector candidate – he had to have been a chairman or CEO of a company with paid-up capital of at least S$100 million.

Tan was the regional manager for AIG Govett (Asia) which didn’t have that sum of money in paid-up capital.

Still, he was allowed to run after discretion was exercised by the Presidential Elections Committee.

Fast-forward to PE2017.

From an already tight pool of qualified candidates (having to be Malay and helming a firm with S$500 million shareholders’ equity), the PEC denied self-made millionaires Salleh Marican and Farid Khan them the same discretion given to Tan.

(4) Opposition Blocked at the last Minute from Raising Questions on Legitimacy of PE2017?

The Workers’ Party filed a motion to question the legitimacy of the reserved election in parliament on 11th Sept.

But, it was blocked after parliament voted to discuss a “community Sentencing” motion filed by Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai instead.

Since the 13th parliament sat, there have only been 9 or 10 motions filed.

Suddenly, in just 3 days, 3 separate motions were tabled, leading some to believe that the government wanted this whole elections talk out of the way quickly.

(5) PAP-led Government Killed Meritocracy by Changing the Constitution?

A PAP-dominated parliament had voted in November to change the Constitution to allow for reserved elections.

This was viewed in many factions as “affirmative action” for minority-group candidates, as the rationale was a minority-group candidate would lose against a majority-group candidate in an open election.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam subsequently revealed that that government’s initial plan was to reserve elections for just two groups: the Malay community, as well as Indian and other communities, but the idea was scrapped after feedback from the Chinese ground didn’t favour this.

(6) A “Tan Cheng Block” Dick Move?

And so, questions were raised as to whether the whole reserved-for-Malays only election was a dick move to block popular prospective PE21017 candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

Dr Tan (who is Chinese lah), who lost by less than 1 percent to the PAP-endorsed president Dr Tony Tan in PE2011, had signalled his intention to contest this year.

Also, the financial criteria for private sector candidates was raised to the point where Dr Tan would not meet the requirements to qualify.

(7) Tan Cheng Block Version 2.0 Dick Move?

Another action which the government took which many viewed as a great Tan Cheng Block dick move by the government was to count President Wee Kim Wee as the first elected president even though he was an appointed one.

This despite, historical and government records showing that President Ong Teng Cheong was Singapore’s first openly elected president.

Starting the count from Tan would push the reserved-for-Malays-only election to the next presidential election.

The government defended the count by saying President Wee exercised the powers of an elected president in his second term in office.

Dr Tan challenge this in court and the court dismissed his case, saying the government had the discretion to decide when the count started.

(8) Halimah is Indian but Malay?

Mdm Halimah is an Indian Muslim – even the Indian press acknowledges her as an “Indian-origin” politician.

A Wikipedia entry got suspiciously edited to remove the “Indian descent” while she said she was “mulling” the decision to run for president.

The explanation given for Mdm Halimah being “Indian but Malay” is that she has been certified by the Malay Community Committee as “Malay” in the past 4 General Elections which she contested.

Naturally, she was certified as “Malay” again for PE2017.

(9) No need for minority-group MP in GRC?

The whole purpose was to ensure that minority races in Singapore would be represented in parliament and there would be a racially-balanced selection of MPs.

But instead of holding a “reserved” by-election to replace Mdm Halimah with another minority-group MP after her resignation to contest PE2017, the government appointed a grassroots adviser to Marsiling-Yew Tee resident.

This grassroots advisor, Zaqy Mohamad, is already an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC MP.

And, he’s also a director with Ernst and Young.

The move left Singaporeans wondering if S$16,000-a-month MPs are really that underworked, such that they can cover 2 constituencies at one time and still have time for their private-sector job.

(10) Singaporeans are racist?

The government’s rationale for the reserved election was to give minority-group candidates a chance at becoming President, fearing they couldn’t hold their own against a majority race candidate in an open election.

In other words, Singaporeans vote along colour-lines.

But just last year, the PAP’s relatively unknown candidate Murali Pillai beat SDP chief Chee Soon Juan in the Bukit Batok by-election.

Also, research shows that 69 percent of Singaporeans want DPM Tharman (who is Indian lah) to be Singapore’s next prime minister.

So, are Singaporeans racist?

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