Singaporeans vote for president in the wake of political scandals

Singaporeans have recently participated in their first contested presidential election in over a decade. The president’s position in Singapore is mostly ceremonial, with limited powers and influence on public affairs. However, the outcome of this election could serve as an indicator of public sentiment towards the ruling party, following a series of political scandals involving high-ranking officials.

One of the leading candidates is Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a veteran minister of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). Shanmugaratnam, a prominent economist, resigned from the PAP in June to enter the presidential election. He previously served as the deputy prime minister and finance minister of Singapore. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong heads the PAP, which experienced its worst electoral performance in 2020, although it still maintained a significant majority in parliament.

The PAP’s reputation has been tarnished this year due to a string of rare political scandals. These scandals include a senior minister’s arrest in a corruption probe and the resignation of two lawmakers over an extramarital affair. As Singaporean voters cast their votes, many have expressed that these scandals might influence their decision. Some voters have voiced their desire to express their dissatisfaction with the ruling party, while others are voting based on their personal preferences. Businesswoman Ms Tong mentioned that the sentiment is divided, with voters being more aware of the limited powers of the president.

The president of Singapore serves as the custodian of the city-state’s substantial financial reserves. Therefore, eligibility for the position requires candidates to have either civil service or corporate experience. Tharman Shanmugaratnam is currently the frontrunner in the election, which is the first contested election in more than a decade. The other candidates include Tan Kin Lian, a former insurance executive who has faced criticism for previous social media posts about women and Indians, and Ng Kok Song, a former investment officer in a wealth fund.

Ethnicity has also emerged as an issue in the election, as Singapore is a multicultural city-state with a majority-Chinese population. If elected, Shanmugaratnam would be Singapore’s first non-Chinese president chosen by voters. However, some voters emphasize that race is not a deciding factor and believe that Singapore has made progress in overcoming racial divisions. Digital consultant Mr Anthony expressed that the focus should be on selecting the best candidate rather than considering race.

Additionally, voters have raised concerns about the strict eligibility criteria for presidential candidates. Prospective candidates must have held senior positions in the civil service or have been the chief executive of a public company worth at least $500 million Singaporean dollars. These restrictions have led to consternation among voters, who feel that the pool of candidates is limited.

It is worth noting that voting is compulsory for Singapore’s 2.7 million eligible citizens, further emphasizing the importance of public participation in the election. The outcome of this contested presidential election will provide valuable insights into public sentiment towards the ruling party and their response to recent political scandals. It will also shape the political landscape of Singapore for the foreseeable future.