Sin­ga­pore­ans protest against un­con­tested elec­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

SIN­GA­PORE: Hun­dreds of Sin­ga­pore­ans, most dressed in black, held a silent protest yes­ter­day against an un­con­tested pres­i­den­tial elec­tion this week in which ap­pli­ca­tions from four can­di­dates were re­jected. Po­lit­i­cal protests are rare in the wealthy city-state but the elec­tion of Hal­imah Ya­cob, a for­mer speaker of par­lia­ment, as the coun­try’s first woman pres­i­dent had led to some dis­may over how other prospec­tive can­di­dates were re­jected.

“ROBBED OF AN ELEC­TION #NotMyPres­i­dent”, read a ban­ner at the en­trance to the park where the protest was held, a venue called Speak­ers’ Cor­ner, which has been des­ig­nated as the site in the city for peo­ple to air their views. “We care about the coun­try and where it’s head­ing to­ward,” said 22year-old Anna, who de­clined to give her last name.

“This is an is­sue that I feel es­pe­cially strongly about,” she said, adding that the power of au­thor­i­ties “had gone unchecked”. She said it was the first time she had at­tended a protest. If the elec­tion had been held, all cit­i­zens above the age of 21 would have been el­i­gi­ble to vote. Aim­ing to strengthen a sense of in­clu­siv­ity, mul­ti­cul­tural Sin­ga­pore had de­creed the pres­i­dency, a largely cer­e­mo­nial six-year post, would be re­served for can­di­dates from the mi­nor­ity Malay com­mu­nity this time.

Of the four other ap­pli­cants for the pres­i­dency, two were not Malays and two were not qual­i­fied to con­test, the elec­tions depart­ment said on Monday. Hal­imah had au­to­mat­i­cally qual­i­fied be­cause she held a se­nior pub­lic post for over three years and was de­clared elected af­ter nom­i­na­tions closed on Wed­nes­day. The strin­gent el­i­gi­bil­ity rules in­clude a stip­u­la­tion that a can­di­date from the pri­vate sec­tor should have headed a com­pany with paid-up cap­i­tal of at least S$500 mil­lion ($370 mil­lion). Or­ga­niz­ers of yes­ter­day’s protest said it was silent as speeches that touched on race and re­li­gion would have needed a po­lice per­mit.

Tan Cheng Bock, who lost the pre­vi­ous pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2011, said in a Face­book post: “It is not Pres­i­dent Hal­imah as a per­son that Sin­ga­pore­ans are un­happy about. It is about the way our govern­ment has con­ducted this whole walkover pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.” Dis­plays of dis­sent are un­usual in Sin­ga­pore, one of the rich­est and most po­lit­i­cally sta­ble coun­tries in the world. It has been ruled by the Peo­ple’s Ac­tion Party (PAP) since in­de­pen­dence in 1965 and the cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter, Lee Hsien Loong, is the son of the coun­try’s found­ing fa­ther Lee Kuan Yew.

In the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion - held months af­ter the death of Lee Kuan Yew - the PAP won al­most 70 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote and swept all but six of par­lia­ment’s 89 seats. But it was the third gath­er­ing of so many peo­ple at the Speak­ers’ Cor­ner since the be­gin­ning of July. The an­nual Pink Dot gay pride rally drew thou­sands of peo­ple to the site on July 1. And in mid-July, a protest was held at the venue call­ing for an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry into whether Lee abused his power in a bat­tle with his sib­lings over what to do with their late fa­ther’s house.— Reuters

SIN­GA­PORE: Sin­ga­pore’s for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Tan Cheng Bock (cen­ter), who lost nar­rowly in the pre­vi­ous elec­tion, is mobbed by sup­port­ers at Hong Lim Park in Sin­ga­pore yes­ter­day. Hun­dreds of Sin­ga­pore­ans an­gered by the walkover vic­tory of its first fe­male pres­i­dent gath­ered in a down­town park yes­ter­day for a ‘silent sit-in’ in a rare po­lit­i­cal protest de­nounc­ing the lack of an elec­tion. — AFP

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