Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Presidential Ambitions

Tomorrow is the first day of winter; a season I was delighted to escape during my time in Singapore, although it has to be said that many of my Singaporean friends would just as gladly swap their June/July heat for a good New Zealand frost.

But it promises not to be a 'winter of discontent' for aspiring Presidents. FIFA's Sepp Blatter has neatly sidestepped any reference to corruption at the sport's highest table, although the rest of the world views matters differently. He is no doubt keen to keep his $900,000 plus salary intact.

In a more positive vein, Singapore is once again going to the polls, this time to choose a replacement for incumbent President Nathan.

Eugene Tan writing in the Today Online believes that unlike the previous elections there will be a contest this time.

"And it is probable the strong ground sentiments, polarised political mood and emotions that characterised this year's May GE will also manifest themselves in the presidential polls. This is despite the Presidential Election not being a political contest in which candidates debate and challenge each other on political platforms and policies".

Even though candidates for this high office have to be 'non-partisan' by nomination day, this prerequisite fools no one, as previous party affiliations are well known by the local populace.

I would not be surprised if an overtly PAP endorsed candidate would find such support a 'poison chalice'.  The recent General Election demonstrated an increasing desire for opposition voices to counterbalance the PAP majority.

Not that the President has any real power to countermand government policies.  His or her role is largely ceremonial; none of a Blatter- style autocratic overview would be expected nor tolerated.

So who will emerge from the woodwork to lay claim to the title? The pay and conditions will surely prove an attractive lure but not everyone can be sure of even standing. Candidates need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility to run and this is available from tomorrow.

Last time around  only one of the four candidates was granted this elusive certificate and that was President Nathan.

The career history and experience of the other three candidates counted against them according to the selection committee. They did " not have the experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to effectively discharge the duties and responsibilities of the office of the President" was the verdict at the time.

The government appoints the three person Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) and in 2011 the composition of the committee consists of the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Mr Eddie Teo, Ms Chan Lai Fung, chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, and Mr Sat Pal Khattar, a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights. Mr Teo will chair the PEC.

Former PAP MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock looks as if he will throw his hat into the ring and President Nathan could also seek another term.  It will be interesting to see who else passes the stringent, preliminary vetting process.

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