(Channel News Asia) – President-elect Halimah Yacob will occupy the “most controversial presidency in the history of Singapore”, former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock said on Wednesday (Sep 13).
Mdm Halimah submitted her nomination papers on Wednesday morning and will be sworn in as Singapore’s eighth President on Thursday.
The former Speaker of Parliament was the only person to qualify for the election, which was reserved for Malays following changes to the Elected Presidency. Two other presidential hopefuls, Mr Mohamed Salleh Marican and Mr Farid Khan, had their applications to stand for the election turned down as both did not meet a new requirement for private-sector candidates to helm companies with at least S$500 million in shareholders’ equity.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Dr Tan congratulated Mdm Halimah and said he wished her well, but called the walkover “disappointing”.
He noted that when a Constitutional Commission set up to review the Elected Presidency recommended scraping the election and reverting to an appointed Presidency, the Government rejected the idea. “They explained it was important for citizens to give the Presidency their ‘popular’ and ‘direct’ mandate,” Dr Tan said.
He raised the example of the 1993 Presidential Election, where former Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee “went out of his way” to persuade Mr Chua Kim Yeow to run, even though the Government’s “preferred candidate” was Ong Teng Cheong.
“Why? To prevent a walkover and give citizens the dignity of expressing their choice,” Dr Tan wrote.
He added that in 2011, he stood for election because he “did not want a walkover”.
For this year’s Presidential Election, “everyone knew Mdm Halimah would win,” he said. “Still, we looked forward to a poll to tell the Government what we thought about the elections”, he added.
“People now feel muzzled and angry. Because when you take away our right to vote, you take away our political voice. You tell us that our choice does not matter.”
Dr Tan said that this year’s Presidential Election had been a “quiet affair” but there is now a “deafening silence awakening the nation”.
“We did not get a chance to speak with our vote this round, but the time will come. And when it does, it will be thunderous. Of this I am sure.”