Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim has ruled himself out of the upcoming Presidential Election, which is reserved for the Malay community, saying he is happy in his current role.Applications for the historic polls in September opened on Thursday (June 1) morning, and will close five days after the writ of election is issued.
Prospective candidates must submit one form to the Presidential Elections Committee to get a certificate of eligibility, and another form to a newly set-up Community Committee, to declare that they are part of the Malay community and get a Community Certificate.
Private-hire driver Shirwin Eu, 34, was the first person to turn up at the Elections Department (ELD) on Thursday morning to collect the forms.
When asked why he is trying to run for an election reserved for the Malay community, he said the "verdict" is not out yet, in reference to the legal challenges before the courts on the reserved Elected Presidency (EP). Former Presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock and non-practising lawyer M Ravi have filed separate legal challenges against changes to the EP scheme.
Dr Yaacob's name is among several that have been bandied about as prospective candidates. The others include Parliament Speaker Halimah Yacob, Bank of Singapore chief executive officer Bahren Shaari, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, former Cabinet minister Abdullah Tarmugi, and former Senior Minister of State Zainul Abidin Rasheed.
Second Chance Properties CEO Mohamed Salleh Marican on Wednesday declared his intention to contest, while Mr Shaari did not rule himself out.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Madrasah Student Awards Ceremony at Singapore Expo on Thursday morning, Dr Yaacob said: "Whoever who steps forward for this Presidential Election must see this not as a job but as a calling. This is an important institution and we're making this tweak because we want to preserve the multi-racial nature of our Constitution.
"Whoever is willing to step forward and take the job must continue to carry the ethos of multi-racialism. He or she must continue to do their best to rally all Singaporeans, not just Malay community. I see this person not just qualified to do the job because of the custodial role but the ceremonial role which is very important as it's the symbol of Singapore."
He declined to comment on the other potential candidates. When asked if he would contest the election, Dr Yaacob said: "No. I am happy where I am. I’d like to contribute in policy work.
"The little I’ve done in all the ministries I’ve been involved with, I hope I have done something to improve the quality of life in Singapore."
Changes to the EP scheme were passed into law last November. This included instituting a mechanism that reserves an election for a particular ethnicity that has not had an elected representative for five consecutive terms.
Candidates must also meet more stringent criteria. Among the new requirements is one that states a prospective candidate must have served as the chief executive of a company for at least three years, with the company having at least S$500 million in shareholders' equity, on average, in the most recent three years.
Mr Eu, the private-hire driver, did not think the new rules would hurt his chances. He told reporters his chances of winning would be "no different from other candidates" if he was allowed to qualify on an "unconditional basis".
He tried but failed to qualify for the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election. He also failed to garner the required signatures to support his candidacy in the 2015 General Election.
On his latest attempt to run for office, Mr Eu said it was a decision based on "instinct".
"I just feel like walking in, I just feel like doing it. I think that I'm probably better than the rest of the candidates until proven otherwise," he said.