Relax eligibility criteria so more can contest presidency

I have been following the Constitutional Commission hearings on the elected presidency.

The eligibility criteria to run for office, especially the one where a person from the private sector must have experience in running a company with at least $100 million in paid-up capital, should be made less stringent or even forgone.

This will ensure that a bigger pool of people, including women and people of minority races, will qualify ("Raising the bar 'could shrink the pool of candidates'"; April 19).

We should not introduce race as a criterion, as it runs against our principle of treating all Singaporeans equally, regardless of race, language or religion ("'Minority-only contest would send wrong signal'"; last Wednesday).

Furthermore, narrowing the pool of candidates on racial grounds will increase the chances of a weak president being elected, for lack of eligible candidates.

The candidate's track record, instead of his race, should be considered during the election.

Perhaps a committee can be formed to identify suitable minority candidates and encourage them to contest.

It is unfortunate that there is not much more awareness on the role of the president, the functions attached to the office, and the day-to-day practicalities of how these responsibilities are discharged.

There also needs to be more understanding on the different roles our prime minister and president play.

For the electorate to exercise their votes meaningfully, they need to know what their preferred candidate needs to do and how he will be constrained or supported.

The state has an important role to play in ensuring there is more awareness and understanding of these issues.

V. Balu

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Relax eligibility criteria so more can contest presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe