Fine-tune presidential election process

With the 2015 General Election behind us and a new government team firmly in place, Singapore must now turn its attention to electing its new president by August 2017.

This gives the authorities ample time to rigorously address the matter, fine-tune how a new president is elected and make changes to the process if necessary.

In 2011, it was estimated that about 800 registered companies in Singapore had a paid-up capital of at least $100 million.

Experience in managing such companies is one key criterion for aspiring presidential candidates.

By today, this base of 800 companies would have grown significantly, thus creating a larger pool from which presidential candidates could emerge.

Given this scenario, the Presidential Elections Committee would be hard-pressed not to approve aspiring candidates who meet all the set requirements for presidential candidates.

So, six, eight or even 10 or more candidates could well qualify for the 2017 Presidential Election.

This number is far too high for our current election system - which involves just one round, with the first candidate past the post winning the polls.

If six candidates contest, then a candidate securing 17 per cent of the total votes cast could win the election, provided none of the other five candidates individually secures more than 16.6 per cent of the votes. An elected president who garners just 17 per cent of the votes cast cannot be considered as having secured political legitimacy.

The current presidential process needs to be tweaked to ensure that the elected president obtains at least 50 per cent of the votes cast.

This could be achieved by having two rounds of voting when there are three or more candidates.

Only the top two candidates from the first round would get to progress to the final voting round, in which the candidate securing more than half the votes wins.

Clinton Lim Eng Hiong

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2015, with the headline Fine-tune presidential election process. Subscribe