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Singapore government modifies elected presidency proposals in white paper

Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 18:30

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WHEN it comes to how long one must have served in a qualifying office in order to run for President, the Singapore government is opting to retain the existing eligibility criteria of three years.

WHEN it comes to how long one must have served in a qualifying office in order to run for President, the Singapore government is opting to retain the existing eligibility criteria of three years.

This is instead of the doubled duration of six years originally proposed by the Constitutional Commission tasked with reviewing the elected presidency.

Releasing its white paper on Thursday, the government said while it "accepts in principle" the Commission's main recommendations, there are areas where it disagrees. In some instances, it has accepted the Commission's proposals with modifications.

An example is the recommendation to introduce a "look back" period of 15 years, to ensure that the applicant's leadership experience is relatively current.

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While the government agrees that a currency requirement should be instituted, it thinks the period should be extended to 20 years instead of 15.

"In the government's view, as long as an applicant's qualifying tenure falls wholly or partly within 20 years of the relevant presidential election, his experience may be considered suitably current," said the white paper.

This is also a departure from the Commission's proposal, which said the entire period of the applicant's qualifying tenure should fall within the 15-year window.

Other areas of the Commission's report were wholly accepted, such as the idea to reserve elections for minority races.

The government noted that the "'hiatus-triggered' safeguard mechanism" has the benefit of being race-neutral, in that it guarantees the representation of all racial groups in the presidency.

Said the white paper: "Practically, it is most unlikely that a five-term hiatus will ever arise vis-a-vis the Chinese community, which constitutes a significant majority of our population.

"But the approach is significant at a symbolic level, as it underscores the importance of ensuring that all races are represented in the presidency."

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