Social media abuzz over Halimah Yacob's presidential walkover

Madam Halimah Yacob penning a personal letter to Singaporeans as her campaign team looks on. PHOTO: HALIMAH YACOB/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The election for the president may be all but over, but online, the debate on the outcome rages on.

Some are unhappy about the lack of a contest, even if they think Madam Halimah Yacob, the only eligible candidate, might make a good president.

This group on Tuesday (Sept 12) spoke up on social media under the hashtag #notmypresident.

They were countered by another equally vocal group - #halimahismypresident, which urged Singaporeans to rally round their next president.

Social service professional Saleemah Ismail, 48, wrote: "I am jumping for joy that we will be having a true champion of the people as our president."

What is perhaps pertinent in the online storm is that several who wanted a contest were quick to add that they have nothing against 63-year-old Madam Halimah, who they say was an able and popular politician.

What they found hard to stomach was the walkover. Undergraduate Kyle Malinda-White, a 25-year-old Malay, said: "I am not rejecting Madam Halimah - she is a strong woman who has what it takes to win votes. She has been elected legally."

He added: "I am questioning the decision to raise the barrier of entry for private-sector candidates... Now, we have an elected president whose mandate is in serious question, not because of her but because of the process."

The two contenders deemed ineligible to contest the election were company chairman Farid Khan, 61, and chief executive Salleh Marican, 67.

Both did not meet the key requirement of helming a company with $500 million in shareholder equity in the most recent three years.

Law graduate Rio Hoe, 25, who runs the sociopolitical blog Consensus SG, said Singaporeans were "robbed of the dignity" of voting for their first Malay elected president, and also the first female one "in the history of our country, which would have been a momentous occasion for minority rights and women's rights". He added: "What would have been a democratic milestone is now besmirched with the ugly stain of an uncontested election."

His post was shared by dozens, including local blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as mrbrown.

Workers' Party politician Yee Jenn Jong, a former Non-Constituency MP, held similar views. Like several netizens, he said the online storm was not the best start to her presidency.

He wrote in a blog post that it was unfortunate she would not be going through an election.

"In an already very controversial election reserved only for Malays, it would have restored some of the lost moral authority by her winning against credible opponents through popular votes," said Mr Yee.

Several also pointed out that Singaporeans unhappy with the outcome had many opportunities to speak up during the 20-month-long review of the elected presidency.

They could have made submissions to the Constitutional Commission, or disagreed openly after parliamentary debates or at public forums, they said.

Some, like former Nominated MP Calvin Cheng, focused on those who failed to step forward to contest the election.

His Facebook post read: "What I am disappointed in is that there were clearly other candidates who could automatically qualify but didn't put themselves forward."

He did not name anyone, but said they included Malays who were former ministers or corporate bigwigs."Why didn't they step up? The presidency is the highest office in the land in protocol, and when duty calls, one would have thought that good men and women will answer," said Mr Cheng.

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