WP, Aware blame changes to EP scheme for walkover

WP, Aware blame changes to EP scheme for walkover
Halimah Yacob leaving the Elections Department on Sept 11. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY
Published: 10:43 PM, September 12, 2017
Updated: 12:21 AM, September 13, 2017

SINGAPORE — Several members of the Workers' Party (WP), including Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leon Perera, have spoken out against the walkover in this year's Presidential Election. They noted that many recent changes to the scheme had led to only several occasions where voters went to the ballot box in the past 26 years.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), in congratulating Madam Halimah Yacob, who is set to become Singapore's first woman President, reiterated its disappointment with the tightening of the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates.

"Nevertheless, we congratulate Madam Halimah ... and hope that she will speak up for gender equality in her role," it said on Tuesday (Sept 12).

In a Facebook post on Monday, Mr Perera noted that there have been only two elections across five presidential cycles. Those elections were won by Mr Ong Teng Cheong in 1993, and Dr Tony Tan in 2011. Mr S R Nathan was elected unopposed in 1999 and 2005, as will be Mdm Halimah in this year's election which has been reserved for the Malay community.

Mr Perera attributed the impending walkover for Mdm Halimah to the "many changes" made to the Elected Presidency last year. These include raising the bar for private-sector candidates, requiring them to helm companies with at least S$500 million in shareholders' equity.

Mr Yee Jenn Jong, a former WP NCMP, questioned the need to tighten the criteria for private-sector candidates in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

"If we look at the backgrounds of the two disqualified Malay candidates, they are both self-made businessmen with rags-to-riches stories, demonstrating resilience in adversity and I am sure financial prudence and savvy to achieve what they did," he said.

Some Singaporeans also took to social media to express their disappointment with the walkover, with many using the hashtag #NotMyPresident in their posts. The hashtag first gained popularity among social-media users rallying against Mr Donald Trump after he won the United States' presidential election last year.

Mr Darryl David, a People's Action Party (PAP) MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said: "I've seen those hashtags. You're drawing a comparison to another election in another country. The circumstances and people are very different. To use a hashtag used in that (US) election is extreme."

While he understood Singaporeans' disappointment over the lack of a voting opportunity, another PAP MP, Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) said the late Mr Nathan was a "steady hand" and "well-loved" President, despite winning in a walkover twice.

Speaking to reporters outside the Elections Department on Monday, Mdm Halimah said she would do her best to care for and serve Singaporeans. "That doesn't change whether there's an election or no election."