In Brief

Singaporeans elect president without a single vote

New rules on race and wealth meant only one candidate was eligible for next week's election

Singapore is set to appoint a new president today without a single vote being counted, after only one candidate qualified to run in next week’s election.

 Speaking to reporters earlier this week, former speaker of parliament Halimah Yacob “promised to do the best that I can to serve the people of Singapore and that doesn’t change whether there is an election or no election”.

What should be a moment of celebration - Yacob will be Singapore’s first female president - “has proved contentious for several reasons and appears at odds with Singapore’s reputation as a technocratic and efficient city state”, says CNN.

For the first time in Singapore’s history, candidates had to be ethnic Malays. The city state has not had a Malay president since Yosof Ishak in the 1960s and the new rules were intended to ensure the racial group, which makes up about 13% of the population, along with the majority Chinese and Indian, were fairly represented.

New rules approved by parliament last year also set stricter criteria for the backgrounds of candidates, with those from the private sector required to be a chief executive of a company with at least $370m (£278m) in shareholders’ equity. Two Malay presidential hopefuls were excluded by the Electoral Committee on these grounds.

Critics of the new rules argue they enable the predominately ethnically Chinese government to stage-manage the election and prevent opponents from running.

The change has started a controversial debate in Singapore about how an individual’s race is determined. A case in point is Yacob herself, who while standing as a Malay, is reported to have an Indian father.

While largely ceremonial, Singapore’s president can nevertheless veto some government legislation, appoint key public positions and, most importantly, authorise corruption investigations.

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