With Thailand’s first female prime minister, Yingluck Shinwatra about to take her seat, her success is giving hope to other western countries that, perhaps, a women leader isn’t too far away for them too. Most notably, Singapore.
Next month Singapore will choose its new president and although no women are running, some are already looking to the next election as the chance to get a woman into the position. The last general elections that were in May 2010 there were a few female candidates and in keeping with the evolving times voters seemed “ready to ignore the gender issue and instead focus more on the leadership qualities and platform of individual candidates.” I guess this means that none of the female candidates had migraines, or if they did, it didn’t becoming top billing of news in Singapore.
However, despite their efforts to make women more a part of the government in Singapore, the laws that dictate eligible candidacy, that were draft by men, are somewhat are archaic and so alienating of many potential runners for presidency, that fact may outweigh hope.
In order for a candidate to qualify to run for president, they must at least be 45 years old and have been a resident of Singapore for 10 years of more; not belong to any political party, and must have held an office position for three years. As if asking for candidates to not belong to any political party wasn’t enough, the following criteria must also be met:
1. As Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or Permanent Secretary;
2. As chairman or chief executive officer of a statutory board to which Article 22A of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore applies;
3. As chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency;
4. Or in any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organization or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President.
A tall order for men, let alone women. And in a country where only 12 of the 64 members of the statutory boards are women, according to the Women for Action and Research, it just might be asking too much.
But Singapore is ready for a female president. With their attention focused on necessary attributes and skills, as opposed to gender, it’s clear the country is ready to move into the future, following in Thailand’s footsteps. If Singapore can be inspired, perhaps, other Asian countries will follow suit. In the end, it’s more about ability, and less about gender.