Singapore

Reserved election 'affirms values of multiracialism & meritocracy'

That Singapore will soon have a Malay president after 47 years is, for presidential candidate Halimah Yacob, an affirmation of two core values Singaporeans hold dear: multiracialism and meritocracy.

"It shows we don't only talk about multiracialism, but we talk about it in the context of meritocracy or opportunities for everyone, and we actually practise it," she told The Straits Times in an interview yesterday.

She said it demonstrates Singaporeans can "accept anyone of any colour, any creed, any religion, at any position in our society, so long as they feel that the person can contribute".

Her resignation from her posts as Speaker of Parliament, MP and member of the People's Action Party on Monday to contest the upcoming election has seen views opposed to changes to the presidency resurface, with some questioning the commitment to meritocracy.

Madam Halimah firmly refutes the view that the election, which will be reserved for Malay candidates, entails a trade-off between multiracialism and meritocracy.

It, in fact, ensures both founding ideals are preserved - giving fair access for all races to be represented at one time or other, in the highest office of the land, while requiring that each and every candidate meets the same stipulated criteria.

"All candidates have to qualify," Madam Halimah said, noting the Constitutional Commission reviewing the elected presidency last year had made clear its stand on this issue.

"If we weaken eligibility criteria for those taking part in a reserved election, yes, then we are compromising meritocracy for representation.

"We are not - the same criteria applies to everybody," she said.

FRONT RUNNER

Madam Halimah, 62, has been described by observers as the front runner for the election.

They noted she is the only aspirant who automatically qualifies to stand, having held the post of Parliament Speaker since 2013.

Two other presidential hopefuls, Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific chairman Farid Khan, 62, and Second Chance Properties chief executive Salleh Marican, 67, do not automatically meet the financial threshold.

They have to convince the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) they have the experience and ability to effectively carry out the functions of the office if elected.

Asked about the prospect of a contested election in the interview at NTUC Centre, Madam Halimah said she will leave it to the PEC to decide, adding: "We always go into a contest preparing for a contest."

presidentelectionHalimah YacobPresidential Election