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    Sep 08, 2016

    Govt accepts main proposals in principle

    SIGNIFICANT changes are set to be made to the elected presidency to ensure candidates are amply qualified and representative of Singapore's multiracial society.

    A Constitutional Commission has suggested that the bar to contest presidential elections be updated to reflect the growth of the economy and the national reserves.

    Candidates from the private sector should be the most senior executive of a company with at least $500 million in shareholders' equity, a change from the current rule that the person is chairman or CEO of a company with at least $100 million in paid-up capital.

    A special provision has also been recommended to guarantee that the highest office in the land is accessible - and attainable - by members of the country's minority communities.

    If any of three racial groups - Chinese, Malay, or Indian and Others - has not been president for five terms, the next election will be reserved for members of that race.

    The size and structure of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) should be strengthened too, and it should be consulted on all fiscal matters relating to the reserves.

    Details of the recommendations by the nine-member panel are set out in a 154-page report that the Government released yesterday.

    The commission was set up eight months ago to review three aspects of the 25-year-old elected presidency: the qualifying process, ensuring minority representation, and the framework by which the president exercises his custodial powers, in particular the CPA's role.

    Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in Laos for Asean meetings, said in a letter to commission chairman Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon that the Government accepted in principle the main recommendations.

    Acting PM Teo Chee Hean said in a statement the commission had produced a "comprehensive and thoughtful report, after an extensive process to solicit views from the public".

    The Government will give a detailed response in a White Paper next Thursday. It will then table amendments to the Constitution and have a full debate on the issue in Parliament.

    The panel, in carrying out its task, received more than 100 public submissions and held four public hearings.

    It also gave its views on some matters beyond its terms of reference. In particular, the committee suggested the Government consider returning to a president elected by Parliament if it was fit and timely to do so.

    The next presidential election is due in August next year.