Eurasian Association calls for GRC-style presidential elections

(From far left) Eurasian Association trustee Timothy de Souza, honorary treasurer Martin Marini, president Benett Theseira and vice-president Alexius Pereira at the second Constitutional Commission hearing on the elected presidency yesterday.
(From far left) Eurasian Association trustee Timothy de Souza, honorary treasurer Martin Marini, president Benett Theseira and vice-president Alexius Pereira at the second Constitutional Commission hearing on the elected presidency yesterday.ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG

The Eurasian Association yesterday said restricted presidential elections, in which only minority candidates can run, are not the best way to ensure Singapore gets a minority president from time to time.

It proposed having GRC-style presidential polls instead to achieve this aim.

"We're not in favour of the restricted election where... we have a minority candidate stand (after a few terms)," its president Benett Theseira said at the second Constitutional Commission hearing on the elected presidency.

"We feel it goes against the grain of our multiracial philosophy and it may create unhappiness, forcing people to vote for a single individual who is of an ethnic minority."

Mr Theseira was at the hearing with the association's vice-president Alexius Pereira, honorary treasurer Martin Marini and trustee Timothy de Souza.

He also said stipulating that only minority candidates can run could create keen competition among minority communities and divide them.

Under the GRC-style election, two or three people will contest the election on one ticket, with at least one member in the group belonging to a minority race.

The group will then pick one person as a "front runner", who will be president if it wins the election.

The other two members will be appointed to the Council of Presidential Advisers.

But a requirement should be put in place that a minority candidate be designated the front runner when this method does not throw up a minority president after a few terms, said Mr Theseira.

He added that this way of electing presidents is similar to how teams are elected for group representation constituencies in parliamentary elections.

He said it would give minorities a fair chance of being elected to the highest office of the land, adding that it would affirm all races are treated equally.

Professor Chan Heng Chee, a commission member and chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, said such requirements would make it a "restricted election" as well.

But Mr Theseira said the GRC-style election "dilutes the impact slightly" as the slate will be multiracial.

"As a society, we've had experience doing that in the parliamentary elections with the GRCs, and I think that is something that people are used to," he added.

Responding, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, the commission's chairman, said: "It's really a question of palatability, right? Because in substance, it comes down to the same thing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2016, with the headline 'Eurasian Association calls for GRC-style presidential elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe