Singapore

Halimah Yacob still mulling over presidency bid

Two weeks after she first announced her interest in contesting September's presidential election, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob is still mulling over whether to throw her hat in the ring.

"I'm deeply honoured by the expressions of support at this event. But I still need a bit (of time) to do further consultations and discussions, so I'm still considering it," she told reporters yesterday.

If she decides to stand, she will have to resign from the People's Action Party and step down as Speaker and MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

She pointed out she had been certified as a member of the Malay community in the past four general elections: in 2015, 2011, 2006 and 2001. "It is something for the Community Committee to decide," she said at an interfaith gathering organised by the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS).

The upcoming election is the first reserved for Malay candidates following changes passed by Parliament last November to ensure that the office reflects Singapore's multiracial society. For the purposes of the election, a Community Committee was set up to assess the racial group each candidate belongs to.

Applicants must declare which community they consider themselves a part of, and the relevant sub-committee - in this case, the Malay sub-committee - will issue them a certificate if it agrees.

But a debate has arisen over whether the hopefuls who have put their name up for election are "Malay enough". Online critics said Madam Halimah, whose father was Indian-Muslim and mother Malay, should be considered an Indian.

They also took aim at two men who declared their intention to run: Second Chance Properties chief executive Salleh Marican, who also has Indian heritage and fumbled over some Malay words in a video, and marine company chief Farid Khan, who is of Pakistani descent.

Mr Salleh is taking Malay lessons, and Mr Farid said though his identity card indicates his race as Pakistani, he and his family practise Malay culture and speak Malay, and so he is part of the Malay community.

Both men will also have to convince the Presidential Elections Committee that they are eligible for the post even though they do not automatically meet the criteria for candidates from the private sector.

Applications will close on the fifth day after the Writ of Election is issued in late August.

At yesterday's event, several participants made oblique remarks on Madam Halimah's possible presidential bid, to laughter. PPIS president Rahayu Mohamad said: "Madam Halimah is our patron, and I hope she will continue to be our patron in whatever capacity she serves."

At a later discussion on women's issues, one participant said: "We hope Madam Halimah can show us what women can do."

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