On Elected Presidency, Singaporeans’ top wish is tougher checks on spending of reserves: poll

Singapore’s Istana Presidential palace (in foreground), pictured on March 6, 2014. (AFP News)

As their top preference regarding changes to the Elected Presidency (EP), Singaporeans want tougher checks and balances that would restrict the government’s ability to spend Singapore’s reserves, a poll by Blackbox Research shows.

In an article citing the results of its poll of 2,668 Singaporeans, the market research agency said on Saturday (17 Sept) that 53 per cent said such checks were “absolutely necessary” to improve the current system.

Support for candidates who have contributed greatly to the community over a long period of time came in second, while more stringent criteria for those President nominees from the private sector only came in third, it added.

Stronger opportunities for minorities ranked fourth, while the need for greater opportunities for a female President came in a distant last.

When it came to opportunities for a minority President, only 23 per cent thought it was “absolutely necessary” to provide constitutional protection to ensure minorities could become President, Blackbox Research said.

The polling agency said its findings showed that, overall, fewer than four in 10 Singaporeans have followed the news on this issue in recent months.

“Amongst those who have, it is clear that the majority are more focused on the President’s role as a financial protector of last resort,” it noted.

“Findings also suggest that many Singaporeans are equally keen to see nominees who qualify based on previous community contribution and not solely on their track record in the private or public sector,” it added.

A Constitutional Commission has recently submitted to the government its recommendations on changes to the Elected Presidency.

The government has accepted most of them, and the changes are expected to be put in place before the next election in 2017, according to local media reports.

In a 48-page White Paper issued on Thursday (15 September), the government said that it favours a “cautious approach” in implementing the changes, in order to maintain a broader pool of potential candidates.

Candidates from the private sector would be required to be top executives from companies with $500 million in shareholders’ equity. Currently, candidates can qualify as chairmen or chief executives of a company with at least $100 million in paid-up capital.

The government would also reserve elections for candidates from a particular race, if no one of that race has been elected president after five consecutive terms. The move “strikes an appropriate balance” between multiracialism, and ensuring a president from minority races, said the White Paper.

The government said it would table a bill containing the constitutional amendments as proposed in the White Paper and which would be debated in Parliament during the second reading.