Tuesday 29 August 2017

Presidential Election 2017: Nomination Day on Sep 13, Polling on Sep 23

PE 2017 Writ issued: Nomination Day on Sep 13, Polling on Sep 23
Elections committee to check if candidates meet criteria, and inform them by Sep 12
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2017

Singaporeans will vote for their eighth president on Sep 23, if more than one person qualifies to run for the position.

The winning candidate will be the second Malay president in Singapore's history, and the first to be chosen in a presidential election reserved for candidates of a specific community.

But whether the nation's 2.5 million eligible voters get to cast their vote at all hinges on the Presidential Elections Committee.

It screens all presidential hopefuls to see whether they meet the required criteria and will inform them of its decision by Sep 12.

If only one candidate qualifies, he or she will be declared the president on Nomination Day, Sep 13. Otherwise, a contest is on the cards.

The contenders will be nominated at People's Association headquarters at 9, King George's Avenue.

These details were given by the Elections Department (ELD) yesterday when it announced that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had issued the Writ of Election.

PM Lee later stressed in a Facebook post the significance of the reserved election, saying it is important in a multiracial country for every citizen to "know someone of his community can... and does become president from time to time, and thus represent all Singaporeans".

In the event of a contest, Polling Day, which is Sep 23, will be a public holiday. The Returning Officer will be Mr Ng Wai Choong, chief executive of the Energy Market Authority.

Three people have stepped forward to potentially join the contest: marine services firm chairman Farid Khan, 61; former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, 63; and property company chief executive Salleh Marican, 67.

Mr Farid and Mr Salleh handed in their forms last week, although neither qualify to run automatically.

Mr Salleh said yesterday in a statement that he is confident of getting the green light, adding that he will be independent of political parties and other organisations.

Mr Farid is confident as well that he will qualify.

To get the nod to run, the potential candidates have to apply for a certificate of eligibility, and a community certificate confirming that they belong to the Malay community. Both applications must reach the ELD by 5pm next Monday.

Candidates also have to apply for a political donation certificate from the ELD by Sep 9.

The final document needed is the nomination paper. It must be signed by the candidate and a proposer, seconder, and at least four assentors.

The candidates must submit their nomination paper, and all three certificates, in person between 11am and noon on Nomination Day. They must also pay an election deposit of $43,500.

A new feature in this election is a form for candidates to voluntarily undertake to conduct their campaign in a dignified and decorous manner consistent with the president's position as the head of state and the symbol of national unity.

These signed undertakings will be made public, with the nomination papers and certificates, on Nomination Day.

When President Tony Tan Keng Yam's term ends on Thursday, Mr J.Y. Pillay, chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, will be Acting President until the new president is sworn in.

PM Lee, in his Facebook post, expressed the hope that "Singaporeans will support the candidate who will best represent their interests and aspirations, and our nation".

"Not just at home, but internationally too," he added.

3 presidential hopefuls: With the Writ of Election out, all three hopefuls are stepping up preparations for the campaign in the lead-up to Nomination Day.

Farid Khan confident of getting nod, rolls out videos to woo voters
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2017

Businessman Farid Khan is confident he will qualify to run for the highest office in the land in next month's election, which has been reserved for Malay candidates.

"I am confident that both committees will affirm my eligibility to contest and that I belong to the Malay community," the 61-year-old said in a statement yesterday after the Writ of Election was issued.

The chairman of regional marine services company Bourbon Offshore Asia handed in his forms to the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) and the Community Committee last Thursday.

He does not automatically qualify for the Sep 23 election, as candidates from the private sector must have run a company with an average of at least $500 million in shareholder equity for the most recent three years.

Bourbon Offshore Asia reportedly has shareholder equity of around US$300 million (S$406 million), which falls below the threshold.

Mr Farid declined to spell out what was the shareholder equity stated in the form he submitted to the Elections Department.

"I believe that it meets all the requirements and criteria set by the PEC," he told The Straits Times.

He added that his campaign team is ready, and his campaign will make use of social media and also woo voters on the ground.

On Facebook yesterday, he launched a 46-second video titled "Who is Farid Khan?" Eight more videos are in the pipeline.

"While I have to admit that I am new to this, I hope I can reach out to as many Singaporeans (as possible), getting to know them and getting them to know me too," he said.

Mr Farid previously announced that his campaign would be based on the theme "Together we build our nation". He has also listed five issues he would prioritise if elected, which include countering the threat of radicalism by working closely with the Government and other organisations, and building trust among people of different races and religions.

Mr Farid is of Pakistani descent, a fact that has led some to question whether he can represent the Malay community. He has countered this by saying he speaks Malay, was born in a Malay village in Geylang Serai, practises the Malay culture and worships at Al-Abdul Razak Mosque in Eunos.

Halimah Yacob confirms proposer, to hold press conference today
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2017

Presidential hopeful Halimah Yacob yesterday announced her proposer for next month's election - Singapore Business Federation chairman and Chinese community leader Teo Siong Seng.

Madam Halimah, 63, is the only one of three aspiring candidates to automatically qualify for the reserved election, as she had served as Speaker of Parliament for more than three years.

In a Facebook post after the Writ of Election was issued yesterday, she said many people have stepped forward to express their support since she announced her presidential bid earlier this month.

Among them was Mr Teo, who "generously accepted" her request to be her proposer, she said.

Her post included a video of Mr Teo, who spoke in English and Mandarin of Madam Halimah's dedication to the welfare of workers.

They first met during her time as a unionist and MP. Mr Teo, a veteran in the maritime industry, was a nominated MP when Madam Halimah became Speaker in 2013.

She was able to manage discussions in Parliament very well, and would "remind us not to forget why we are there... to speak up for the people", said Mr Teo.

"Some people may say 'Oh, maybe she is not stately enough', but I don't think so," he added.

"I think she's got tremendous intelligence, and she really can represent Singapore well both domestically and internationally."

Madam Halimah is slated to give a press conference on her plans today. She has been based at the NTUC Centre, home to the labour movement where she spent 33 years and rose to the post of deputy secretary-general. The unions have traditionally backed presidents with strong union links, such as late former presidents Ong Teng Cheong and S R Nathan. It will be no different with Madam Halimah.

NTUC president Mary Liew will be one of the assentors on her nomination form, and unions affiliated with the labour movement are expected to mobilise their members in support of Madam Halimah on Nomination Day. Her long years in politics have made her a recognisable figure. Elected in 2001, she was MP for Jurong GRC for more than a decade before moving to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in the 2015 General Election.

Besides her Facebook page, which has over 24,000 followers, she now has an official website - halimah.sg - and a YouTube channel.

Salleh Marican: I'll be independent of any political party or organisation
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2017

Presidential hopeful Salleh Marican yesterday reiterated he will be a president who is independent of any political party or organisation.

In a statement after the Writ of Election was issued yesterday, the businessman also pledged to guard the nation's reserves with prudence, help the less fortunate and donate his entire salary to underfunded charities if elected.

The chief executive of Second Chance Properties submitted his applications for a certificate of eligibility and community certificate to the Elections Department (ELD) last Wednesday. "I await eagerly the decision on whether I will be given the go-ahead to join the race. I am confident of getting that green light," he said yesterday.

Mr Salleh's investment holdings and retail firm had shareholder equity of between $254.3 million and $263.25 million in the past three financial years - below the $500 million threshold set for private sector candidates. The Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) has the discretion, however, to issue an eligibility certificate to candidates even if they do not meet the criteria for automatic qualification.

"I look forward to be eligible to contest the election. A contest will be good for Singapore," Mr Salleh, 67, said.

He has assembled a core team of 20 members and a group of volunteers. His campaign manager Abdul Halim Kader, 66, is a People's Action Party stalwart who has helped the ruling party in five previous general elections. Mr Abdul Halim said he and Mr Salleh are close friends who have known each other since the 1980s. "He's a very charitable man," he said, pointing to Mr Salleh's annual donations of $22,222 to the Tabung Amal Aidilfitri Trust Fund to help the needy.

He added that if the PEC gives the businessman the nod, Mr Salleh plans to do walkabouts in all five districts, visit hawker centres and wet markets, go door-to-door to meet residents, and hold meetings with resident and merchant associations. Work is also under way on a campaign manifesto and banners.

Mr Salleh, who was initially criticised online for stumbling while speaking Malay after collecting his forms at the ELD in June, has been taking regular Malay lessons.

After he submitted his forms at the ELD last week, Mr Salleh spoke to the media in fluent Malay, before turning to his assembled supporters and declaring: "Who says Salleh Marican cannot speak Malay!"

Three uncertainties in the presidential election
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2017

The clock has started ticking.

In less than four weeks, Singapore will elect its eighth president. Nomination Day will fall on Sep 13. Polling Day will be Sep 23. The election will be reserved for Malay candidates, since five terms have passed without a Malay president.

Thus, by Sep 23, Singapore would have elected its first Malay president in more than 46 years. The previous one was Mr Yusof Ishak, the Republic's inaugural head of state. He died in 1970 before the end of his third term.

Three uncertainties confront Singaporeans at this juncture.

First, will there be a contest?

Supporters of former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, 63, will probably sense the mantle of history moving towards their candidate. She is hitherto the only presidential hopeful who meets the criteria for automatic qualification.

She qualifies on her experience as Speaker, a post she held from 2013 to Aug 7 this year, when she stepped down to run for the presidency.

The others who have applied to run are Mr Farid Khan, 61, chairman of a marine services firm, and Mr Salleh Marican, 67, chief executive of a listed property company.

To qualify automatically, private sector candidates must have helmed a company with an average shareholder equity of $500 million in the three most recent years. Both Mr Farid and Mr Salleh fall short.

But it is too early for Madam Halimah's team to be measuring the drapes for the Istana office.

There may be others who qualify but have yet to declare their interest. All who want to run have to apply for certificates by next Monday.

Also, the Presidential Elections Committee has the discretion to qualify candidates via a deliberative track, if their experiences are comparable to the automatic criteria.

In 2011, the committee surprised many by clearing Mr Tan Jee Say. He too did not meet the explicit criteria, but it said his firm was "an organisation of equivalent complexity".

Still, Madam Halimah is undoubtedly the current front runner. She has served close to 40 years in public service and the labour movement. She was a union lawyer, an MP, deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, minister of state in two ministries, and the first woman to become Speaker of Parliament.

People also remember her fights on behalf of the underdog - whether vulnerable workers or pre-school children from low-income families.

She is the clear favourite to win at the moment, if there is a contest.

The second uncertainty: If there is a contest, will it be dignified?

Singapore has seen only two contested presidential elections: in 1993 and 2011.

The 1993 one, which elected President Ong Teng Cheong, is generally remembered as a tepid affair.

But 2011 saw four candidates surnamed Tan - dubbed the "Tan Quartet" - engaged in a vigorous jostle for the office. Observers said there was a politicisation of the presidency, with some candidates at times making promises on issues that clearly fell outside the constitutionally prescribed powers of the president.

To ensure this would not happen again, Parliament amended the laws to require that each candidate sign a statutory declaration that "he understands the president's role under the Constitution".

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, who introduced the Bill in Parliament, stressed that making a false declaration "is an offence".

A campaign this year is thus likely to be calmer and more correct. But if the race is close, candidates may yet be tempted to take chances.

The third and final uncertainty: Will Singaporeans take to the concept of a reserved election?

The issue has been discussed for nearly two years, since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked a Constitutional Commission to look into the need for minorities to be elected to the highest office from time to time, to ensure it reflects Singapore's multiracial society.

This led to the "five-term hiatus" rule, paving the way for this election to be reserved for Malay candidates.

Some have expressed concern that the rule may erode meritocracy, since it seems to choose a president on factors other than merit.

The Government's response can be thus summarised: On principle, Singaporeans should decide on merit alone. But the evidence shows that many do consider race when voting. Meritorious minority candidates are hence less easily elected. To ignore this reality could cause more damage to the system, because Singapore would be forgoing multiracial representation, which is as important a value as meritocracy.

The "five-term hiatus" rule strikes a good balance, because it provides for a future where minority candidates might be elected in open elections. The rule would then fall out of use naturally, an outcome that all Singaporeans would hope for.

Dissenters may not come round to the Government's view via just theoretical argument. The issue might be settled only after Singaporeans live through a presidential term following a reserved election, and decide from the experience if the country is better off for it.

This would place a heavy burden on the next president.

The person has to show Singaporeans that he or she is every bit as capable of performing the roles and duties of president as one produced by an open election.

Presidential Election 2017: Contest or walkover? Find out on Sep 13
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2017

Whether 2.5 million voters will have the chance to head to the polls on Sep 23 rests on the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC).

This six-member panel, headed by Public Service Commission chairman Eddie Teo, will decide which of the presidential hopefuls make the cut. In order to be issued a certificate of eligibility, a candidate has to convince the committee that he or she is "a person of integrity, good character and reputation".

Also, public sector candidates must have spent at least three years in a key public office.

Those from the private sector are up against more stringent criteria, following changes to the law passed in Parliament last November. They must have helmed a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity to qualify, instead of $100 million in paid-up capital previously.

But those who do not automatically meet the criteria can qualify under the "deliberative" track, which gives the PEC some leeway in determining whether hopefuls are able to carry out the functions of president should they be elected.

Singaporeans will find out on Nomination Day on Sep 13 whether there will be a contest or a walkover.

The PEC will inform all applicants of their decision by Sep 12.

The committee's other members are: Ms Lim Soo Hoon, chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority; Professor Chan Heng Chee, a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights; Mr Po'ad Shaik Abu Bakar Mattar, a member of the Council of Presidential Advisers; Justice Tay Yong Kwang, a Judge of Appeal; and Mr Peter Seah, chairman of DBS Bank.

As this election is reserved for Malay candidates, aspirants must also be certified as members of the Malay community by the Community Committee.

Its Malay community sub-committee, which will assess applicants, is headed by Mr Imram Mohamed, former chairman of the Association of Muslim Professionals.

Its other four members are community leaders Fatimah Azimullah and Alami Musa, and ambassadors Yatiman Yusof and Zulkifli Baharudin.


* Three contenders vying to run in presidential election
Elections Department confirms number of applicants after submission deadline
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2017

The stage is set for a possible contest for the presidency later this month, with three hopefuls submitting applications to run in the election reserved for Malay candidates.

The Elections Department (ELD) yesterday confirmed the number of Malay contenders who applied to stand in the election, after the deadline at 5pm.

The trio are: former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, 63; Second Chance Properties chief executive Salleh Marican, 67; and Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific chairman Farid Khan, 61.

They had already submitted applications for a certificate of eligibility and a community certificate - which are required to contest the election - last month.

Besides applications from the trio, the ELD said yesterday it received two other applications that will be rejected. They are from private-hire driver Shirwin Eu, 34, who applied for a Chinese community certificate, and former private tutor Ooi Boon Ewe, 76, who declared in his application that he did not consider himself a member of the Chinese, Malay, Indian or other minority communities.

Noting that the upcoming election is reserved for Malays, the ELD said: "The Community Committee must reject a community declaration if the declarant does not state that he considers himself to be a member of the community to which the election is reserved."

Mr Eu and Mr Ooi have tried, unsuccessfully, to stand in previous elections. Mr Eu collected forms ahead of the Bukit Batok by-election last year and the September 2015 General Election, while Mr Ooi has tried to run in presidential elections since 1999.

In the coming days, the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) will scrutinise the applications by Madam Halimah, Mr Salleh and Mr Farid, and decide who qualifies to run for the presidency. It has up to Sept 12, the eve of Nomination Day, to announce its decision.

Madam Halimah is the only contender to automatically qualify, having served as Speaker of Parliament for more than three years.

Mr Salleh and Mr Farid fall short of the requirement for private-sector candidates to have run a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity for the most recent three years.

However, the PEC has the discretion to allow them to stand if it is satisfied that they have comparable experience and ability to someone who meets the criteria.

Yesterday, both Mr Salleh and Mr Farid said they were confident the PEC would give them the nod.

"It will be a good contest if the three of us qualify," said Mr Farid.

Mr Salleh said: "I am confident that there will be a contest and I will be eligible to run. My team and I are busy with the preparations."

Madam Halimah declined to comment when approached.

If the PEC rules that more than one contender qualifies, more than 2.5 million voters will go to the polls to pick a new head of state on Sept 23. But in the event that only one person qualifies, that person will be declared president on Nomination Day on Sept 13.

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