As the Presidential Election draws closer, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob has finally indicated her interest in running for Elected President in September, after months of deflecting questions from the media and the public.
Madam Halimah, who has held the title as Speaker of Parliament since Jan 2013, is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC. She would have to step down from her role and resign from the People’s Action Party (PAP) in order to stand for the elections.
Speaking after a community event, she informed reporters she had been thinking about running for presidency (which is only open to Malays this time), and she’s currently consulting with her family and colleagues.
“The EP (elected presidency) is a very heavy responsibility and an important institution in Singapore, so it’s not something that one should take lightly. The duties are also heavy duties. So I have been thinking about it. It needs a bit of time to think.”
“I must say at this moment I have a lot of duties that I have to perform as Speaker, as member of Parliament. Those duties are also very dear, very important to me.”
According to The New Paper, Madam Halimah would be the only candidate so far who fulfils all the qualifications, meeting the public sector service requirement by holding office as Speaker of Parliament for three or more years.
Political watchers also think her popularity and track record will put her as a frontrunner for presidency. “She is known to speak her mind and think independently as an MP, and has shown that she can rise above partisan politics as Speaker of Parliament”, said Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, who is a ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute fellow.
However, National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser warns that her close links with the ruling political party could work against her, as it may be seen as favoritism and an indication of strengthening the party’s rule.
Many netizens have also questioned the way she announced her intention to run for elections, accusing it all of being “wayang” — a colloquial term for going through the motions and putting up a show. It refers to the popular presumption that the ruling government initiated the changes in the constitution to prevent Dr. Tan Cheng Bock from running for president again, especially since he very nearly beat PAP stalwart Dr. Tony Tan in 2011.
Earlier this year, Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing accidentally addressed Madam Halimah as “Madam President” instead of “Madam Speaker” in a parliament session, leaving netizens wondering if it really was a freudian slip.
If she indeed runs in the elections, Madam Halimah will contest against Farid Khan, chairman of Bourbon Offshore Asia, a marine services provider company, and Mohamed Salleh Marican, CEO of Second Chance Properties.