The city-state’s Elections Department said only one of five nominees had qualified while the others failed to meet strict criteria like holding public positions or managing a firm with at least 500 million Singapore dollars (US$370 million) in equity.
Former parliamentary Speaker Halimah Yacob (pictured) is the beneficiary of what has been dismissed as an establishment stitch-up.
The former member of the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has dominated the tiny republic since independence, entered politics in 2001. She was elected four times.
The restricted election has been criticised.
“The only beneficiaries from this reserved presidential election are Halimah Yacob and her team, as well as Singapore’s opposition, which now has a new line of attack against the PAP. The rest of Singapore has suffered,” Sudhir Vadaketh, a Singaporean commentator, told CNN.
And Hamish Brown, a long-term radio personality, posted on Facebook: “Meritocracy went out the window as soon as this presidential election was reserved for one particular ethnic race over all others.”
The ceremonial role has the constitutional power to veto the use of the fiscal reserves and make public appointments.
Last year, the constitution was altered to include presidential elections limited to a particular ethnicity, when that group has not been represented in the role for five terms or 30 years.
Singapore’s previous ethnically Malay president, Yusof Ishak, died while in office in 1970.
Singapore has a population of 5.6 million, with 74.3 per cent ethnically Chinese, 13.4 per cent largely Muslim Malays, 9.1 per cent of Indian descent and 3.2 per cent others.
Presidents have been elected for their six-year terms since 1991, and before that they were appointed by MPs.
Outgoing president Tony Tan suggested the reasoning was based on fears of Islamist terror. According to the Straits Times, he said: “One of these days, an incident will happen. And when that happens, it’s very important to ensure we do not allow it to destroy our cohesion, or to have tensions between the various communities.
“In that respect, reserving this next election for the Malays is appropriate, unfortunately, because of these circumstances around the world which Singapore is caught up in,” Tan said.
Former parliamentary Speaker Halimah Yacob. Picture credit: YouTube