Photo of Lee Hsien Loong from The Star

In an interview with Malaysian media The Star, the Singapore Prime Minister revealed that if no Malay candidate step up to contest, the Presidential Election will be open to all.

“We do not have anybody specific in mind but we know there are people who will qualify. If nobody presents, who is Malay, then it becomes an open election. Then others can also participate.”

Given the increased stringency of the election requirements, there have been speculations that the contest might see no candidates even if it is opened to all races. However this is an unlikely scenario as the ruling party government will likely prepare a Malay candidate. It is understood that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong dictated the increase in stringency to deter candidates in the private sector from contesting.

Last month (Nov 2016), state media Straits Times shortlisted 7 PAP-linked cronies for the President position. The list includes current Ministers and former ruling party-linked individuals who will likely get the ruling party endorsement should they contest.

In the interview, when questioned why similar race-based requirement for the President not applicable for the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong side-stepped the question and said it is “human nature” to be racist when it comes to voting:

“It could happen in our lifetime. If you look at America, Barack Obama became president. In their case, it took 200-something years, or 100-something years if you count from the time of the Civil War. It is a long process but it is possible and I hope one day it will happen. The racial patterns of voting is something very deeply ingrained. It is so in Malaysia; it is so in Singapore, perhaps less so in Singapore but it exists. If you look at America, even in this election, it was quite clear that the different ethnic groups had very different voting patterns. So that is a reality of human nature which we have to accept.”

As to his successor, the Prime Minister said that the new Prime Minister will be decided in a closed-door decision made among the ruling party Ministers based on popularity instead of qualifications.

“I have a team of younger Ministers. I brought some of them in in 2011, some more last year in 2015. They are all working hard, doing well. I hope that soon after the next election, amongst them they will have decided, settled and the leader will be ready to take over from me.”