After rare political controversies, Singaporeans elect a ceremonial president

Voting has begun in Singapore's first contested presidential election in more than a decade, marking the beginning of the nation's first presidential election overall.

The role of the president in the city-state is purely ceremonial, and they have limited power and very little say in how public affairs are handled.

The outcome of the election on Friday, however, may serve as a gauge of public mood regarding the party that has been in power for an extended period of time as a result of a series of scandals involving members of parliament.

The leading candidate, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, was a veteran minister in Singapore's PAP party, which is the party that currently governs the country.

The 66-year-old economist, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister, resigned from the People's Action Party in June to run for president.

The PAP, led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, suffered its worst electoral performance in 2020, despite retaining a parliamentary majority of more than two-thirds.

This year, the party's reputation has been damaged by a series of unusual political scandals, including the arrest of a senior minister in a corruption investigation and the resignations of two lawmakers over extramarital affairs.

According to polling station voters this could affect their vote. A businesswoman, Ms. Tong mentioned that she believes that voters are expressing how they feel about the PAP, while others are voting for their preferred candidate. 

This time around, however, individuals are more aware of what the president can and cannot do. Singapore requires its candidates to have either public service or corporate experience because the president is responsible for the city's substantial financial reserves.

After outgoing President Halimah Yacob declined to compete for a second six-year term, Mr. Shanmugaratnam is the frontrunner in the first election to be contested in more than a decade.

Tan Kin Lian, a 75-year-old former insurance executive who has been criticized for past social media remarks about women and Indians, and Ng Kok Song, a former wealth fund investment officer, are the other candidates.

The ethnicities of the candidates in the multicultural, but majority-Chinese city-state have also been an issue, with some pointing out that Mr. Shanmugaratnam could become the first non-Chinese president elected by electors.

Friday, a voter mentioned to sources that race was irrelevant. Mr. Anthony, a digital consultant, stated that he has always viewed it as a contest between the best candidates, regardless of race.

He believes they are in a much stronger position than other nations when it comes to race. They are not entirely a past race, but they have what it takes to progress beyond it in time.

Concern among voters has also been voiced in relation to the rigorous constraints placed on those who are eligible to run for president.

They need to have prior experience either as a senior civil official or as the chief executive of a publicly traded company with a minimum market capitalization of $500 million Singaporean dollars (or £392 million or $370 million). Participation in the electoral process is mandatory for all 2.7 million eligible citizens of Singapore.