Unwise to abolish elected presidency

Professor Kishore Mahbubani believes that we should consider the possibility that a rogue president could be elected, and that we should consider having the president be chosen by Parliament once again ("Let's talk about policy failures and the elected presidency"; yesterday).

We have more to fear from a rogue Parliament than a rogue president, because the president's powers are largely reactive in nature.

Also, many of his powers, such as withholding assent to the Supply Bill, must be exercised in consultation with the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA). This serves as a further check on the president's use of his powers.

The president has very few discretionary powers, such as the appointment of the prime minister and two members of the CPA, severely limiting his ability to damage our political system.

On the other hand, Parliament and the Cabinet hold extensive legislative and executive powers respectively, and the elected presidency was intended as a check on these powers, particularly when these powers are exercised with regard to our financial reserves.

Furthermore, reverting to the old practice of Parliament electing the president would greatly diminish the strength of the president as a guardian of our financial reserves.

We must not discount the possibility of a profligate Parliament electing a subservient president who would readily turn the "second key" to unlock the financial reserves.

Singapore should carefully consider whether changes to the presidency would unintentionally weaken its role as a guardian of our financial reserves, which is currently one of the most important roles of the president.

Dennis Chan Hoi Yim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Unwise to abolish elected presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe