08/31/2023, 19.44
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Singaporeans set to pick a new president, after several years, three candidates are in the race

by Steve Suwannarat

More than 2.7 million voters can elect the president, a ceremonial but symbolically important post. For the first time, candidates from all ethnic backgrounds can run. Experts see the vote as a referendum on the People's Action Party’s long rule.


Singapore (AsiaNews) – Campaigning and political advertising in Singapore’s presidential election ended at midnight Thursday for a cooling-off period of two days until the closing of the polls on Friday. 

Some 2.7 million eligible voters are called to pick the country’s head of state, who will remain in office for six years. For the first time, the election is open to candidates from any ethnic community, seen as a vote of confidence in the People's Action Party (PAP), which has ruled the city-state since elections were first held in 1959.

In Singapore, running for the presidency is complex and must adhere to strict rules. After an elected presidency was introduced in 1993, three elections were uncontested since only one candidate met the criteria and so voters did not vote.

On 22 August, the Writ of Election was issued with the Presidential Elections Committee allowing three candidates to run, the third time an election will be contested.

The winner will succeed Halimah Yakob, a lawyer and former speaker of parliament, becoming Singapore's ninth head of state, occupying a symbolically important but largely ceremonial post, as power is largely vested in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The three men running are Ng Kok Song, a former chief investment officer of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC); Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a former deputy prime minister and an ethnic Indian; and Tan Kin Lian, a businessman and former chief executive officer of Income Insurance Limited (formerly known as NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative Limited), a leading insurer.

Tan already ran in 2011 and came in last among the four candidates in that race.

For some observers, tomorrow’s vote will be like a referendum on PAP, Singapore's dominant party, which has led the country for more than 60 years.

Although the candidates are running as independent, Shanmugaratnam is considered to be the closest to the PAP, and his experience and integrity could counter recent scandals that have hit the party, accused of corruption followed by a series of important resignations.

This came as a shock in a country that has always prized stability and seen the capabilities and integrity of its politicians as a top priority.

For the first time, the election this year was open to candidates from all ethnic groups, a change that takes into account the delicate balance of an ethnically diverse electorate, divided by ethnicity, faith, and national origin.

Three quarters of Singapore’s three and a half million people are ethnic Chinese, while the others are mainly Malays, Indians, and Eurasians.

Political leaders have so far avoided playing the ethnic or religious card, conscious of the risks of destabilisation over any possible electoral gain.

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