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Singapore amends constitution, paving way for first Malay president

by November 9, 2016 General

SINGAPORE, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — Singapore Parliament on Wednesday passed the bill to amend the Constitution to raise bar for presidential candidates and ensure multiracial representation in the Presidency, which paves the way for the country to have its first Malay president in more than 40 years.

After three-day intense debate in the Parliament, 77 Members of Parliament (MP) gave approval to the bill, while all six MPs from the opposition Workers’ Party cast opposing votes.

Under the new Constitution, an election will be reserved for a particular racial group if no one from that group has been president for five continuous terms. This means next year’s Presidential Election will be reserved for candidates from the Malay community. Since Wee Kim Wee became the first Elected President in 1991, Presidents in Singapore have come from the Chinese and Indian community.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made clear for the first time the government’s intention to trigger the proposed mechanism for reserved election in the next polls, and explained the broad reasoning behind the decision.

“If the president, who is the symbol of a multiracial nation, always comes from the same race, not only will he cease to be a credible symbol of our nation, but the very multiracial character of the nation will come under question,” said Lee.

The prime minister added that even though the minority communities have not pressed for it in Singapore, such arrangements should be made to ensure the presidency will be multiracial.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam also stated that he “will not be standing in the next presidential election” as it would be for Malays via his Facebook post.

Other changes on Elected Presidency include raising the bar for candidates to keep up with the times. Prospective private sector candidates would have to have helmed companies with 500 million Singapore dollars (359 million U.S. dollars) in shareholders’ equity, up from 100 million Singapore dollars (71.83 million U.S. dollars) in paid-up capital.

The President of Singapore is directly elected by popular vote. Potential candidates for office have to fulfill stringent qualifications set out in the Constitution.

The city state is a multiracial country comprising Chinese, Malay, Indian and other races. The majority of the population are Chinese which take up about 74 percent, while Malay account for 13 percent and Indian for 9 percent.