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Qualifying criteria for elected presidency should be reviewed: PM Lee

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The qualifying criteria for a person to be a candidate for the elected presidency should be reviewed, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in parliament on Wednesday.

THE qualifying criteria for a person to be a candidate for the elected presidency should be reviewed, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in parliament on Wednesday.

The next presidential election in Singapore is due by August 2017. The Constitution states, among other criteria, that a candidate must have held key appointments such as Speaker of Parliament or Chief Justice, or have experience running large companies with a paid-up capital of at least S$100 million.

Speaking during the debate on the President's Address, Mr Lee said while the principle of the elected presidency remains valid, the details "may need to be brought up to date".

He cited how, based on inflation alone, S$100 million in 1990 would be equivalent to S$158 million today. Singapore's gross domestic product in 1990 was S$72 billion, last year it was S$399 billion. The government's expenditure has increased from S$11 billion in 1990 to nearly S$68 billion last year.

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The Constitution was amended in 1991 to provide for the election of the president. The first elected president was Ong Teng Cheong in 1993.

Mr Lee noted how the benchmark companies used for setting the qualifying criteria have also grown much larger over the years. Singtel, for instance, had a paid-up capital of S$500 million in 1993 but that has since grown to S$2.64 billion.

The prime minister also said it was timely to examine how to ensure that minority candidates can have a chance to be elected as president.

With presidential elections in future likely to be contested, Mr Lee said it would become "much harder" for minorities to be elected.

"We should consider a similar mechanism for Presidential elections, to ensure that minorities can be periodically elected if we have not had a particular minority as President for some time," he said.

There are also plans to study if the views of the Council of Presidential Advisors, which assists and advises the president, should be given greater weight.

A new constitutional commission will be set up to study these issues and make recommendations, said Mr Lee. The commission will be chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and include jurists, academics and corporate executives.

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