The judging criteria of local beauty pageant Miss World Singapore have drawn flak after its organisers announced that one fifth of scores would come from votes from the audience at the finals.
The announcement, which was made on the pageant's Facebook page last Friday, calls for supporters to make bookings for seats for the pageant finals, to be held on July 28 at the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel.
Each seat costs $350. A premium table of 10 seats costs up to $5,000. Ticket prices include cocktails, dinner and the show itself.
Contestants felt that placing such weightage on audience votes favours those who have wealthier friends and family members, who will buy seats or tables for the event.
A chart was uploaded to the Facebook page, showing the number of supporters that each girl already has for the night.
Only three out of the 17 contestants - Ms Teri K. Chua, Ms Elizabeth Houghton and Ms Maria-Anna Zenieris - had supporters, according to the chart.
A contestant who declined to be named told My Paper: "Some contestants see placing so much weight on the audience voting as unfair. It is disappointing, as many of the girls cannot afford to splurge thousands (of dollars) on tables."
Event organiser Edmund Ooi of Asia Music People said that the judging criteria released online were intended to be a "rough gauge" for contestants.
The other criteria are physical appearance (35 per cent), performance (25 per cent) and talent (20 per cent).
But he said that the final criteria - which will be released this week along with the line-up of judges - will "not change dramatically".
He said: "The winner must have a strong group of campaigners...
A fear that contestants have is that we use popularity as a pressure element to (make them) purchase tickets.
"What we're really doing is telling supporters: 'Look, you want to support? Do something, show us'."
Half of those in the audience will be "sponsors, friends (of the organisers) and people not related to the girls", he said.
But he stressed that "popularity does carry some weight". He said : "If popularity is not important then why are we telling people that this is the girl that is representing Singapore? We might as well have a closed-door competition."