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Robbed of our right to elect our president

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Why are Singaporeans so upset over Madam Halimah's walkover?

It should be one of the most monumental moments in the history of Singapore. Unfortunately, the ushering in of our first female president – a minority, no less – has been received with disdain from Singaporeans.

Shortly after the announcement that only Madam Halimah Yacob qualified to run for presidency on Monday, Singaporeans flooded the online sphere to vent their frustrations at the no-contest. #notmypresident has trended since, reminiscent of the unhappiness in the US following the election of President Donald Trump.

Outrage-notmypresident-halimah
IMAGE CREDIT: SCREENGRAB FROM MOTHERSHIP.SG'S VIDEO

President-elect-Halimah
Netizens expressing their anger on a live stream as Madam Halimah Yacob makes
an appearance at the People's Association HQ on Nomination Day.
IMAGE CREDIT: SCREENGRAB FROM CHANNEL NEWSASIA'S VIDEO

But why is everyone so upset?

When I asked around, most of the people I spoke to said the same three words: "We were robbed."

Many Singaporeans feel that we have been robbed of a scarce opportunity to vote. The presidential election happens every six years and is one of the few times Singaporeans get to analyse our country's needs, and select the best candidate. 

Human resource officer Mindy Chen, 22, said: "I wanted to see a fight. I wanted to see the different campaigns and truly witness how much the candidates wanted to be president through how much they are willing to do to make Singapore even better than it is now.

"It is as if the future of our nation is no longer in our hands."

While this is not the first walk over, emotions are higher, possibly due to the tension and unhappiness that has been growing since the implementation of the reserved election. 

I am disappointed too, although when the reserved elections were announced in 2016, the very first person I thought of to be president was Madam Halimah.

In my opinion, Madam Halimah is the most qualified for this position because of her numerous years representing the people. She has been a Member of Parliament for 16 years.

Not to forget, her time as a Minister of State and Speaker of Parliament over the last four years and her 30 years' worth of experience at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), where she worked her way up from a legal officer to be deputy secretary-general before entering office.

 Madam Halimah Yacob served as Speaker of Parliament from
2013 to 2017, qualifying her to run for the presidency. 
PHOTO CREDIT: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION

So to many Singaporeans, Madam Halimah was already the frontrunner.

But that is not the point. Singapore is built on democracy. This democracy was meant to give Singaporeans the chance to play a big part in the continuous progress of Singapore by voting.

Undergraduate Zai Zuraidi, 24, said: "At this point, everyone online is making jokes about how this was 'expected', that this was just a cakewalk for Madam Halimah, and that she has not earned the position.

"This in turn reflects poorly on Singapore's core value of meritocracy, causing people to start losing even more faith in it."

Losing faith in meritocracy could very well be just the tip of the iceberg. There can be implications.

NSF Samuel Kwok, 20, said: "Without the democratic process of an election via casting votes, it will lead to questions regarding the legitimacy of her presidency and her job could be made much harder due to intense scrutiny [from the public]. In terms of repercussions, I believe the government will pay a price for the reserved election. Confidence in the PAP may drop. We will see in the next General Election."

President-Halimah
Madam Halimah Yacob writing a letter to her supporters the day before Nomination Day.
PHOTO CREDIT: MADAM HALIMAH YACOB'S FACEBOOK

Undergraduate Victoria Ong, 20, raised concerns about the international reputation of Singapore. 

She said: "I don't think a physical rebellion is going to happen because I don't think Singaporeans like chaos, but an online and social rebellion can be just as damaging.

"What happens if everyone starts criticising Madam Halimah, the way the people criticise Trump? Many foreign leaders are very in tune with social media and this can affect their perception of her."

reserved-election-Halimah
Madam Halimah Yacob meeting the residents under the Marsailing-Yew Tee GRC in 2015.
PHOTO CREDIT: MARSAILING-YEW TEE GRC'S FACEBOOK

At the end of the day, I have no doubt in the capabilities of Madam Halimah Yacob as our first female President of Singapore.

However, what truly worries me are the potential consequences that will ensue from this walkover.

TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: MADAM HALIMAH YACOB'S FACEBOOK 
BANNER PHOTO CREDIT: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION