In 2017, he was the only political figure that the Electoral Commission considered suitable. This year’s elections, scheduled for September 13, could also be without any political confrontation, a risk analysts warn against as it would undermine citizen confidence.
Singapore () – “In a few months the presidential elections will be held. After careful consideration, I have decided not to run again.” These are the words with which the President of Singapore, Halimah Yacoub, decided to step down from a second term. “It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as the eighth President of Singapore in the last six years. The experience makes one humble, but at the same time it has been very inspiring.”
Halimah Yacoub had been elected in 2017, although without having carried out a real electoral campaign because, thanks to a constitutional amendment that came into force the previous year, the position had to fall to a candidate from the Malaysian minority after five terms held by candidates of origin Chinese. The government had enacted this amendment to increase the inclusiveness of the city-state. Yacoub was the only figure considered suitable by the Electoral Commission, while four other candidates were disqualified.
Singapore is a multiracial, multireligious and multilingual city-state: its more than 4 million inhabitants are predominantly of Chinese origin, followed by Malaysian, Indian and Eurasian minorities.
Halimah Yacoub, who entered politics in 2001 and is now 68 years old, was an MP for several years, then a minister and finally Speaker of Parliament in 2013, the first woman to hold that position. “I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve all Singaporeans, regardless of their race, language or social position, as the President of Singapore,” she said today.
The President of Singapore plays mostly a ceremonial and representative role, but can also veto or approve policies involving a withdrawal of public reserves not accumulated during the term of the government led by the Prime Minister. The president may also make or revoke certain appointments from public office.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Halimah Yacoub approved the use of previous reserves: 52 billion Singapore dollars (38.4 billion dollars) in fiscal year 2020, 11 billion in 2021 and 6 billion in 2022. The president also dedicated to various charitable activities and supported an annual fundraising campaign to promote volunteer activities in Singapore. In her speech today, she stressed that she took office with the goal of cultivating a “more caring and compassionate society.”
The race for the new elections is now open, to be held before September 13. Banyan Tree Holdings Chief Executive Ho Kwon Ping and former Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan are among the possible candidates, according to the local newspaper. The Straits Times. Lee Hsien Yang, the youngest son of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, also said that he had considered running. His family and the People’s Action Party have dominated the city-state’s politics since 1959.
According to the criteria established by the Constitution, candidates who have been ministers, president of the Court or permanent secretaries for at least three years are eligible for the office of president. For their part, those in the private sector must have served at least three years as CEO of a company with a net worth of S$500 million and have generated net profit after tax for the entire period.
Analysts fear that such criteria will discourage many candidates, and a closely contested election could erode public confidence in the presidency. The lack of trust “makes it more difficult for the president to be a unifying figure,” wrote a few days ago the journalist Han Fook Kwang. “Being able to say ‘the people elected me to be their president’ makes a big difference,” he said.
“It’s not about the person himself, but I think a confrontation would definitely strengthen the legitimacy of the process and the person who ultimately becomes president,” said Walid Jumblatt Abdullah, a political analyst at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.