WP, Aware blame changes to EP scheme for walkover

Today - - HOT NEWS - VA­LERIE KOH va­leriekohsf@me­di­a­corp.com.sg

SIN­GA­PORE — Sev­eral mem­bers of the Work­ers’ Party (WP), in­clud­ing NonCon­stituency 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 yes­ter­day.

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 yes­ter­day.

“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.”

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