Presidential Election 2017: Second Chance CEO Salleh Marican calls Halimah Yacob a ‘good candidate’

Photo of Mohamed Salleh Marican: Safhras Khan/Yahoo Singapore
Photo of Mohamed Salleh Marican: Safhras Khan/Yahoo Singapore

Two days after Second Chance Properties founder and CEO Mohd Salleh Marican announced that he plans to run for president of Singapore, the 67-year-old is already busy setting up a team for his election campaign.

But even as Salleh outlined his plan for a 10-member campaign team, Salleh said he is mindful of a potential challenge from Speaker of the House, Halimah Yacob, who is widely tipped to be a presidential candidate.

Calling 62-year-old Halimah “a good candidate”, Salleh said, “Whoever is the government candidate will be my opponent but if you ask me who I prefer not to contest against, it will be Madam Halimah.

“She has a good reputation and is popular. Moreover, as a woman, she has one comparative advantage and that is, women will vote for her,” Salleh said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Singapore at the Second Chance office in Tanjong Katong Complex on Friday (2 June).

Salleh has identified a number of community leaders for his team and will be approaching them over the next few days to get their support. He is also looking to recruit a lawyer and an accountant to support his team.

Since announcing his intention, Salleh claimed that he has received messages of support from Singaporeans from all walks of life for his campaign and he was heartened by them.

“A lot of people have offered their help. In fact, friends of my two daughters have contacted them when they heard the news. They reminded my daughters to invite them over for tea at the Istana soon,” he quipped.

Photo: Safhras Khan/Yahoo Singapore
Photo: Safhras Khan/Yahoo Singapore

Salleh on his presidential credentials

The 2017 presidential election in September is reserved for Malay candidates. Application opened on Thursday (1 June) for prospective candidates to collect forms from the Elections Department and will close five days after the writ of election is issued in late August.

When asked about his credentials to become Singapore’s eighth president, Salleh
pointed out that he has been helping the community over the years, such as through donations, and added that he has the attributes to become a good president.

“I have been helping out (the community) ad hoc but consistently all the while, and I try not to turn down requests for help from anybody.

“Since I started as an entrepreneur, I have always worked hard and I am used to the stress. This is a different form of stress but I am ready to give back to society,” Salleh said.

If he were elected as president, Salleh said he has a succession plan in place for mainboard-listed Second Chance. His younger brother Hasan Marican will take over from him as CEO and run the company, Salleh revealed.

Salleh has more than 40 years of retail business experience. He made his first entrepreneurial foray into menswear tailoring in 1975, which did not take off. He tried again five months later, naming his business Second Chance and specialising in readymade men’s clothing. By 1988, Second Chance had become a household name, with 25 outlets in Singapore and Malaysia.

Tough times came when sales dropped sharply and Salleh was forced to close 21 stores. In 1992, he diversified into Malay women’s traditional clothing with First Lady. Salleh also ventured into the jewellery business with Golden Chance and the property business in the late 1990s.

Photo: Safhras Khan/Yahoo Singapore
Photo: Safhras Khan/Yahoo Singapore

Meeting the Elected Presidency criteria

Besides the potential challenge from Halimah, the business veteran said he will aim to convince the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) that he is adequately qualified for the job.

Presidential candidates must obtain a certificate of eligibility from the PEC and confirmation from the Community Committee that they are a member of the Malay community.

For private-sector candidates, they must have been the chief executive of a company with at least $500 million in shareholders’ equity, on average, for the most recent three financial years. But the PEC can waive this requirement if it is satisfied that a candidate has the qualities and experience to fulfill the role of a president.

According to calculations by The Straits Times, Second Chance’s average shareholder equity over the past three years was between $254.3 million and $263.25 million, which does not meet the requirement.

To convince the PEC, Salleh said his team will make sure that they submit his application properly with the relevant documents to underscore his eligibility.

“How do we satisfy the PEC? Is it through an interview or an essay? Whatever it is, we look forward to convincing them,” said Salleh.

When asked if he is confident of winning the race to the Istana, he cited the fiercely contested 2011 presidential election. President Tony Tan garnered 35.2 per cent of votes cast and won by a slim margin of 7382 votes against his nearest rival Tan Cheng Bock in a four-cornered fight.

“Thirty per cent of the voters (at least) will vote for me against the government candidate. Moreover, a majority of Singaporeans has made it known that their president should be apolitical as it is his job to safeguard the assets and savings of Singapore,” Salleh said.

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