Singapore holds elections measures ruling party strength

Singapore, Sep 1 (EFE).- Singapore was holding presidential elections Friday with three candidates in the running, one of them from the ruling People’s Action Party, seen as a plebiscite on the formation amid a wave of scandals and amid a transition of power.

Some 2.7 million voters, of the 5.4 million inhabitants of the city-state, were called to the polls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (GMT+8) to elect a president, a ceremonial position in the shadow of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of the “father of the nation,” Lee Kuan Yew.

The three candidates are former deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a PAP heavyweight, former sovereign fund Investment Director Ng Kok Song, and former insurance company executive Tan Kin Lian.

Partial favorite Tharman, 66, began his career at Singapore’s central bank and made his political debut with the PAP in the 2001 general election.

On Wednesday, in his last campaign event, he said he’s running “on the margins of the government and above politics.”

Ng Kok Song, 75, defines himself as the “only independent candidate,” compared to Tharman and his contemporary Tan Kin Lian, who also defended his neutrality, but was a member of the PAP more than a decade ago, running for president in 2011.

It is the first time a presidential election in Singapore has been contested in the country in more than a decade, and the third vote since a constitutional amendment in 1991 converted the six-year position into an elected one.

Although the role of president has little bearing in Singapore, and is essentially considered a ceremonial position – with reservations such as acting as guarantor of financial reserves – the elections will serve as a thermometer of popular support for the PAP through its candidate, Tharman, amid a wave of scandals.

The most serious that has shaken the party that governs the island since 1959 concerns Transport Minister Subramaniam Iswaran, removed from office after the anti-corruption department confirmed his arrest in July and subsequent release along with an island tycoon.

It joins two others with a lower profile: one about the alleged rentals of exclusive homes at below-market prices by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakarishnan and Interior Minister Shanmugam Kasiviswanathan, and another about extramarital relations between PAP officials.

The scandals have shaken the PAP at a delicate moment, while the conservative party tries to consolidate the succession in power of Lee Hsien Loong before the elections that must be held in November 2025 at the latest, without a candidate linked to the powerful Lee dynasty. EFE


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