Singapore elects president without a vote

Halimah Yacob upon her arrival at the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh on May 7, 2015.

Singaporeans were meant to go to the polls at the end of next week to vote for a new president, but they’ll no longer have the chance, with only one candidate qualifying for the race.

Former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob has emerged victorious by default, after other presidential hopefuls fell foul of new rules.

“I can only say that I promise 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,” she told reporters Monday.

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What should be a moment of celebration — Halimah 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.

While the office of president is largely a ceremonial role in Singapore, he or she has power to veto some of the government’s decisions, for example in fiscal matters that touch on the country’s reserves, or key appointments in the public service.

“The only beneficiaries from this reserved presidential election are Halimah Yacob and her team, as well as Singapore’s opposition, which now has a new line of attack against the PAP (People’s Action Party). The rest of Singapore has suffered,” Sudhir Vadaketh, a Singapore author and commentator, told CNN. Halimah was, until recently, a loyal member of the ruling PAP, which dominates Singaporean politics.

“All Singaporeans are unhappy that meritocracy and electoral fairness, core Singaporean values, have been eroded to fulfill perceived political goals.”

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