SINGAPORE has reserved its presidential seat for a candidate from the ethnic Malay community in the election for the post next year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told parliament on Tuesday.
According to the Straits Times, the move would pave way for the city-state to have its first Malay president in 46 years.
Speaking during a parliamentary debate on the Elected Presidency system, the government will legislate a racial provision as required by the Constitutional Amendment Bill. Lee said the government intended to do so when amending the Presidential Elections Act in January next year, Channel News Asia reported.
The prime minister said Singapore will have a Malay president again if a qualified candidate steps up to run for the Presidential Election next year.
“As Minister Yaacob (Ibrahim) noted yesterday, this would be our first after more than 46 years, since our first President Encik Yusof Ishak,” Lee was quoted as saying. “I look forward to this.”
The late Yusof was Singapore’s first and only Malay president. Since the Elected Presidency system was introduced in 1991, the country has not had a Malay president. It had an Indian president – S.R. Nathan – who served from 1999 to 2011.
In the debate, Lee pointed out that Singapore must have at least one president from the Chinese, Malay, Indian and other minorities in the course of six terms with the proviso that a qualified candidate runs for the seat.
“Even though the minority communities have not pressed for it in Singapore, we should make arrangements now to ensure the presidency will be multiracial,” the Straits Times quoted Lee as saying.
Singapore’s presidential post is open to candidates from all races but a term would be reserved from a particular community if none of its members took the seat for five consecutive terms.
Lee said ensuring multiracial representation in the Elected Presidency was the most deliberated issue where most was at stake in the proposed changes to the bill.
The candidate, he said, must represent all Singaporeans and the office must be multiracial as the president is the Head of State for Singapore. He added the multiracial character of Singapore will come into question of the president always comes from the same race.
“Every citizen, Chinese, Malay, Indian or some other race, should know that someone of his community can become President, and in fact from time to time, does become President,” Lee said, as quoted by CNA.
Lee said the nation was working towards enlarging a shared Singaporean identity in celebrating different cultures in its push to built a “radically different society” that is multiracial, equal and harmonious.
“We have to work consciously and systematically at this,” Lee said. “It will not happen by itself, nor will we get there if we blithely assume that we have already arrived.”
Singapore’s 5.5 million-strong population is Chinese dominated, with the race making up 74.2 per cent of the populace following by the Malays at 13.3 per cent and the Indians at 9.2 per cent, according to data from 2013.