Singapore

Halimah: Front runner but not a shoo-in?

Law don tells TNP that Halimah is only candidate who 'qualifies outright' for presidential election

Laying the foundation for her nomination in the presidential election, Madam Halimah Yacob yesterday resigned from her political posts as Speaker of Parliament and MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

After months of speculation about her possible candidacy, the 62-year-old confirmed on Sunday evening that she would be contesting next month's election, the first reserved for Malay candidates.

Accepting her resignation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked Madam Halimah for her contributions as labour leader, MP, minister of state and Speaker and said she would bring warmth and dignity to the highest office in the land if elected. (See report on Page 3.)

So far, two other people have announced their intention to run - Mr Farid Khan, 62, chairman of marine service provider Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific, and Second Chance Properties chief executive Mohamed Salleh Marican, 67.

Madam Halimah has been touted as a front-runner, with some observers believing that she could be a shoo-in.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan told The New Paper that Madam Halimah is currently the only person who "qualifies outright", referring to how she satisfies the eligibility criteria for those from the public sector, having spent at least three years in a key public office.

Private sector candidates, such as Mr Khan and Mr Marican, need to have been the most senior executive of a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity for the most recent three years they led it. The company must also have made profit after tax in the time they were at the helm.

Prof Tan said: "They will both have to seek qualification through the deliberative route, where there is no guarantee that they will obtain the certificate of eligibility.

"If they are not eligible and if there are no other eligible candidates, then it would be an uncontested election, or a walkover in popular jargon."

RESERVED

The prospective candidates must also apply to the Community Committee to declare that they are part of the Malay community, as the election is reserved for Malay candidates.

Prof Tan noted that Madam Halimah has been certified four times to be Malay, and the criteria used for parliamentary elections to determine this are the same for the presidential elections.

Asked if Madam Halimah will win the election since another candidate associated with the ruling People's Action Party is unlikely to enter the fray, National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said this might not necessarily be the case.

He said: "The event seems to be shaping out that way at the moment, as compared to more than a month ago.

"But in politics, a day can make a significant difference, and there is such a thing as a self-defeating prophecy, so it is best for her supporters not to come across as presumptuous."

In response to queries from TNP, Mr Marican said: "I am glad she finally announced her intention to run, it is no surprise to anyone. A good contest is good for Singapore."

While welcoming Madam Halimah's intention to contest the election, Mr Khan also said that he had "aplenty" to offer.

"I offer hope and opportunity for Singaporeans to choose a candidate who does not belong to any political party, who wishes to serve and unite every Singaporean," he said.

"As a person who has travelled the world, I must say I bring with me a wealth of experience in business and international diplomacy.

"(Madam Halimah) is a good candidate, and I believe I am too. During campaigning, we will do our best to win the minds and hearts of Singaporeans."

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