SINGAPORE — According to Chan Chun Sing, who serves as the Minister-in-charge of the Public Service in Singapore, there are currently approximately 50 public service positions that could satisfy the public sector service requirement for individuals seeking to run in the next presidential election.
Additionally, for those seeking to qualify under the private sector service requirement, there are over 1,200 companies with an average shareholders’ equity of S$500 million or more.
This was in response to a written parliamentary question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai on Wednesday (10 May).
Mr Leong asked the Prime Minister for the estimated number of Singaporeans qualified to be elected as President as of 31 December 2022, as broken down by those who fulfil the public sector service requirement, and those who fulfil the private sector requirement, serving as chief executive in Government-linked companies (GLCs) and non-GLCs respectively.
Mr Chan, who also serves as the Education Minister, clarified in his response that the Elections Department does not keep track of the exact number of Singaporeans who meet the qualifications to run for president.
The eligibility of candidates in the presidential election is determined by a committee called the Presidential Elections Committee, which includes members such as the chairpersons of the Public Service Commission and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.
The upcoming presidential election, which is open to candidates of all races, must be called by 13 September, with incumbent Halimah Yacob’s six-year term expiring on that day.
The last presidential election – a reserved election for Malays – was a walkover election for Mdm Halimah Yacob after two interested candidates were disqualified by the raised qualification criteria for candidates from the private sector.
Amendment to the Presidential Elections Act
The president of Singapore represents the country in official diplomatic functions and has some executive powers, including control of the national reserves and the ability to veto and revoke public service appointments.
To qualify as a candidate for the presidential election in Singapore, the individual must be a citizen, at least 45 years old, a registered elector and resident in Singapore for a total of at least 10 years, not subject to any disqualifications and meet either the public sector or private sector service requirement, as certified by the Presidential Elections Committee.
On 6 March, the Singapore Parliament passed amendments to both the Presidential Elections Act and the Parliamentary Elections Act. One of the key changes is that eligible Singaporeans residing overseas will be able to cast their vote by post in future elections.
Regarding the Presidential Elections Act, the amendment proposed the removal of the requirement for the committee to consider applications from those below 45 years old, as well as those who do not submit a community declaration for the community that the election is reserved for.
The Constitution of Singapore states that to qualify to be elected as President, a person must not be less than 45 years of age.
In late 2016, constitutional amendments were passed to reserve the elected presidency for candidates of a particular racial group in the absence of a president from that group for the five most recent presidential terms.
Criteria for Presidential Election Candidates from Public and Private Sectors
To qualify for the public sector service requirement in the upcoming Singapore presidential election, an individual must have held office as a Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or Permanent Secretary for a minimum of three years.
Alternatively, the requirement can also be met if the individual served as the chief executive of a key statutory board or government company for at least three years, or if they have served three years in a public sector office and the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) is satisfied with their performance and ability to carry out the duties of the President.
To fulfil the private sector service requirement, one must have been the chief executive of a company for at least three years, with the company having an average of at least $500 million in shareholders’ equity and a profit after tax throughout that period.
If one has served in a private sector office for at least three years, the requirement can still be met if the PEC is satisfied with the nature and size of the organization, one’s performance, and other relevant factors.
PAP has not revealed its preferred candidate for the presidential election
So far, the People’s Action Party (PAP) has not revealed its preferred candidate for the presidential election.
Since the first Elected Presidency in 1993, three elected Presidents have been former PAP Members of Parliament, and one has been a former senior government servant. All of them were endorsed by the ruling party during the elections.
Rumours on the ground suggest that Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching, may be keen on running for the position. However, it is unlikely for Ho Ching to win in a contested election due to public opinion.
George Yeo, Singapore’s former foreign minister, has earlier reiterated that he will not be running in the upcoming Singapore Presidential Election.
Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), the younger brother of PM Lee, a former chief executive of Singtel and former chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, is one of the very few individuals who qualify to contest as a candidate from the private sector.
LHY expressed his interest in standing as a candidate in the upcoming Presidential Election after the government revealed an ongoing police investigation against him and his wife, Lee Suet Fern, over the handling of his father’s last will.