Workers’ Party puts up robust fight against changes to Elected Presidency, but loses

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picture credit: TNP in Twitter

The Presidential election is set for September this year and it will be reserved for a Malay minority candidate. The Workers’ Party (WP) and Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun voted against the the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill yesterday.

These are the excerpts of the WP MPs speeches in Parliament opposing the change.

“…during the November debate, the Prime Minister told the House for the first time that the government had received advice from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on how to apply the hiatus-triggered mechanism for reserved elections i.e. which President’s term to count from. We were told that the advice was that counting should begin from President Wee Kim Wee, who was the first President to exercise the powers of an Elected President. This advice was surprising and illogical to many Singaporeans, given that President Wee Kim Wee was never elected to office. When I asked Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean then whether the government would publish the AGC’s advice for Singaporeans to better understand the reasoning, the government appeared reluctant to do so, and even asked me whether I was suggesting that the Prime Minister was not being truthful!
There has been a lot of public reaction to the announcement that this year’s Presidential Election would be reserved for Malay candidates. After the last Presidential Elections 6 years ago, Singaporeans are right to be skeptical about the government’s motives now. In 2011, Dr Tony Tan was the government’s preferred choice, but had to fight off 3 other candidates, scraping through to victory with a mere 35.2% of the popular vote, and a razor thin margin of 0.35%. For the next Presidential Election, we hear a sudden announcement by the government that it would be reserved for Malay candidates, based on reasoning which is totally unconvincing. How many people really believe that the Presidential Election this year is reserved for Malays to ensure minority representation, and why now?” – Sylvia Lim
“In the last Presidential Elections of 2011, the difference between the ballots cast for President Tony Tan and Mr Tan Cheng Bock was just 7,000 some votes. It is not unreasonable to expect that fewer than 4,000 electors allotted to an affected polling station and another 4,000 electors registered to vote overseas, would trigger a re-vote at the polling station in a close election under the proposed amendment. Why give leverage to persons who tamper with ballot boxes seeking to influence the results of our Presidential Elections? Why amplify their powers to do so in close elections?” – Chen Show Mao
“…the very idea of race poses other considerations in certain cases of reserved elections involving public sector track or public sector deliberative track candidates. For example, in the case of Madam Speaker, should the Honourable Speaker decide to stand as a candidate, what happens to the very existence of the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, which by law requires a Malay MP as one of its political representatives in parliament? Should it be passed, does this Bill herald a new precedent in marked contrast to the scenario in Jurong GRC some years ago when the late PAP MP Mr Ong Chit Chung passed on? Does the Bill, and the prospect of reserved Presidential elections change the Government’s thinking on this question: Would a by-election be called in a GRC when the minority member of a GRC steps down to contest in a Presidential election? Can the Government set its position out on this matter in light of the introduction of reserved Presidential elections?” – Pritam Singh

Despite the WP’s robust fight, the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill was passed easily yesterday due to the overwhelming majority the People’s Action Party (PAP) has in Parliament.