By August this year, Singapore will hold its Presidential Election. With the less-than-stellar performance of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in the recent General Election (GE), this Presidential Election has gotten the attentions of many Singaporeans as an upset might be on the cards.
With that in mind, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has come out to stress that electing a President is very important as the President needs to be “dignified” and it is not like electing a Member of Parliament (MP). Personally I do agree with the DPM that choosing a President is an important decision and Singaporeans should do so after careful thought on the matter.
However, this statement from the DPM has more than a few Singaporeans scratching their heads. You have to admit it seem funny hearing this from a PAP member. For the past few weeks, various government figures, like former Senior Minister S. Jayakumar and Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, had spoke publicly on the “restrictive” powers of the elected president. Mr. Shanmugam was even quoted as saying that the elected President has no role in advancing policy and only has limited veto powers.
This has led many Singaporeans to say that the Elected President is nothing but a ceremonial role. It most definitely seems that this was the image the PAP wants to put out. That the PAP government was the one in charge and that the President does not have a right to counter or even check the government.
However, there is a real flipside in making the Elected Presidency a ceremonial role. If the Elected President only has a ceremonial role without any real powers, it doesn’t really matters who Singaporeans vote in as President right?
If anything, by making the Elected President into nothing but a ceremonial role, the PAP is making it even more difficult for their endorsed candidate, Mr. Tony Tan. If the President isn’t an important role, it would make much of an impact if vote in someone other than Mr. Tony Tan right?
The PAP probably realise this and that is probably why the DPM has come out to say that the President has a very important role...which is in direct contradiction to what the government has been saying for weeks. So just how important is the role of the President in Singapore?
That I believe will depend on whether the PAP candidate wins the election!