Reserved Election: Yay Or Nay?

Singapore’s next presidential election will be reserved for Malay candidates.

Our last Malay president was also our first Yusof Ishak, whose presidency was from 1965 to 1970, more than 46 years ago.

The changes to the constitution call for a reserved election for a particular racial group if no one from that group has been president for five continuous terms. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that this is so every citizen shall “know that someone of his community can become president, and in fact from time to time, does become president”.

These changes have caused a stir among Singaporeans, and many have formed an opinion on the reserved election.

They are either indignant thinking the change serves as a form of tokenism to the Malay community; or buoyant thrilled that someone of a minority race is taking up the role of President.

Some remain indifferent, saying that as long as that the new president is good at his/her job, race or religion doesn’t make a difference to them.

Here’s what some have to say, taken from Reddit and Quora.


1. I’m not fussed about the race of the next president. But I have a serious problem when it is constrained to Malays. This goes against our constitution, our pledge, our meritocratic ideals and identity as a nation.I will not accept anything other than an election open to all races.

2. Equality by opportunity has always been there. Qualified Malays had the exact same right and chance to run for president in all our previous elections. Forcing a Malay into the presidency is the opposite of equality by opportunity. There will always be the shadow that he/she won the presidency only because he/she is Malay, and not because he/she is the best candidate.

3. I’m honestly surprised how a lot of people are supporting this idea. It’s really strange, and goes against the whole idea of a free election. I would be totally on board if he mandated that every election had to have a Malay, Indian, and Eurasian candidate. But only Malay candidates is just… Also, what about the Eurasians?

4. I am perfectly fine with the next president being Malay, but I am certainly not fine with the process in which it is taking place. The new policy is racist, derogatory, undemocratic and un-meritocratic.

5. I don’t oppose a Malay taking up any government post, regardless of how powerful or ceremonial it is.
What I oppose, however, is that any appointment must be Malay… Regardless of your ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender orientation, sex, you deserve a chance to run for any office if you deem yourself sufficiently qualified. However, you must earn the office by your own right, and the only legitimate way to do so is to compete in a fair and fully open election.

6. I understand that our president should rotate among different races. I am completely fine with it. But the EP system should be a free for all as long as they meet the “technical requirements”. Putting race into the requirements is just not right.

7. I’m Malay and I do feel insulted that they need to reserve the elections for just Malay candidates. It doesn’t matter to me what race the President is, as long as he shows himself to be capable of carrying that role. It does feel patronising. I’d probably throw my vote if it does come to this.

8. As a Malay, I don’t even like this. It feels like tokenism. But just because no Malay has ever been a President since Yusof Ishak does not imply in any way that they are incapable of doing so. Besides, the govt has a potential list of candidates for the Malay presidency that is Halimah, Yaacob and a few others.


9. Very happy. Like I am sure many others. But many Singaporeans seem to be displeased with the process and logic behind that decision.

10. It will be great! A President may have to champion multi-racialism but I hope that he/she will make use of the heightened position to champion for Malay rights. The Malays have been facing many challenges and unfair bias for a very long time and more Malays in key and/or public positions will definitely improve the situation.

11. I look forward to it. Doesn’t matter the race as long as they’re capable.

12. Our record of past Presidents show that Malays are underrepresented. Our current system has failed in equal representation at the highest echelon of power. The new system seeks to rectify that. I’m glad we are finally having another Malay President. Hopefully the President will be a unifying figure, an activist and a diplomat.

Mixed reactions

13. As a Malay, I’m conflicted about this. My parents said they didn’t care about the ethnicity of the Singaporean president, but they welcome the fact that Singapore is due to have a Malay president after 40 plus years. My brothers and I feel that the Singaporean president shouldn’t be decided by ethnicity. It creates the idea that the Singaporean president is just a token of that ethnic group.

14. I disagree with the rule as well, but let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. I believe this rule is solely for the purpose of equality by opportunity rather than equality by merit – i.e letting others have a chance for being President for who they are, rather than what they have done.

15. I’m kind of neutral to this, but willing to see how this plays out long term… It may be needed, or it may simply be going against the pledge (or both). I suspect we’ll find out in the long run.

Our Thoughts On The Presidential Election

As for us over at MustShareNews, since this has already been decided and will be happening, we just wish for the next president of Singapore to win the support and trust of the people and represent us as adequately.

Featured image via Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s Facebook page