Singapore may create history having first Malay female president

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill was passed by Parliament on Monday, after almost three hours of debate involving eight members of parliament (MP).

The next Singapore Presidential Election which will be held in September this year will be a unique one as it has been reserved for Malay candidates after Singapore's first president, Yusof Ishak, nearly 50 years ago.

A topic on who the candidate from the minority Malay community will be, has resurfaced.

Could Halimah Yacob, the first female Parliament Speaker become Singapore's first female president, as well?

That can add to a unique development for Singapore's presidential election history on its own.

While debating the Bill, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Chan Chun Sing had twice 'mistakenly' referred to Halimah as 'Madam President', instead of 'Madam Speaker'.

This drew overwhelming response from the House following which went viral on the net, with an imaginary headline, 'S'poreans congratulate Halimah Yacob becoming new president."

At press time, Halimah has yet to indicate any interest in contesting.

Nonetheless, there is no issue in her contesting for the president's post while remaining a minority candidate MP in her group representation constituency (GRC).

That was confirmed by Chan as Halimah - being an example - is the minority member of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

Besides Halimah, several prominent figures in the Malay community, both in the public and private sectors are also seen as potential front-runners.

Last November, Channel NewsAsia ran an article titled 'Singapore's next president: A look at potential contenders'.

The former minister and Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi has also been tipped to be a potential candidate.

Abdullah who was part of the nine-man Constitutional Commission that reviewed the elected presidency reportedly said he had not given the idea of running (for president) much thought, and that friends had encouraged him to do so.

Current ministers Yaacob Ibrahim and Masagos Zulkifli, and former MP Zainul Abidin Rasheed have also been identified as possible candidates.

The article penned by Nur Afifah Ariffin said potential candidates from the private sector included Bank of Singapore Chief Executive Officer Bahren Shaari and Public Service Commission member Po'ad Mattar.

Not only Singaporeans, Malaysians are also closely observing the current development in the island city.

During an interview with Bernama, at Istana last November, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked whether he had any candidate in mind.

"We do not have anybody specific in mind, but we know there are people who will qualify," he replied, noting there was "no shortlist".

"It depends who comes forward. It is not for the Government to arrange. It is for the candidates to come forward," he said.

Lee had proposed amendments to the Constitution which saw among others, a "hiatus-triggered model" put in place to ensure multi-racial representation in the Presidential Office.

It was passed on Nov 9 last year with MPs voting in favour of the Government's proposed changes to the Elected Presidency, 77 to six.

Singapore had five terms without a Malay elected president after Yusof Ishak who served from 1965 to 1970.

The current President Tony Tan Keng Yam's term expires on Aug 31. - Bernama
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