SINGAPORE – Madam Halimah Yacob, 63, became the first woman and first Malay in 47 years to ascend to the highest office, after successfully filing her nomination papers on Wednesday (Sept 13) as the sole eligible candidate for this year’s reserved Presidential Election.
She will be officially sworn in as Singapore's eighth President on Thursday, 6pm, at the Istana, the Prime Minister's Office announced.
Returning Officer Ng Wai Choong declared Mdm Halimah as the President-elect at the People’s Association headquarters along King George’s Avenue to loud cheers by hundreds of Mdm Halimah’s supporters.
President Yusof Ishak was Singapore’s first President and the only Malay to have held the office till he died in 1970.
This year’s Presidential Election was reserved for the Malays in a bid to ensure multiracial representation after Parliament passed into law changes to the Elected Presidency scheme last November.
Apart from Mdm Halimah, two other hopefuls – chief executive of Second Chance Properties Mr Mohamed Salleh Marican, 67, and chairman of marine services provider Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific Mr Farid Khan, 62 – had also filed application forms to contest as candidates.
However, both men were determined ineligible by the Presidential Elections Committee as they did not meet one of the qualifying criteria, which requires that private-sector candidates must have served as the chief executive of a company for at least three years, with the company having at least S$500 million in shareholders’ equity, on average, in the most recent three years.
While some members of the public have expressed happiness at Mdm Halimah’s ascension to the Presidency, others expressed disappointment that this was only made possible courtesy of a walkover.
Questions over the legitimacy of her Presidency have been raised by some quarters, with the hashtag #notmypresident being bandied around on social media following Monday’s announcement that she was the sole eligible candidate for the election.
However, others noted that Mdm Halimah is still qualified to become the President and will be able to perform her duties well, citing her track record of over 40 years in public service.
The youngest of five children, Mdm Halimah had described her childhood as a "terrible struggle" following the death of her Indian-Muslim father and family sole breadwinner.
Her mother, who died in 2015, had to single-handedly raise the family by selling food on a pushcart.
Mdm Halimah had studied at the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School and Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, before applying successfully to read law at the then University of Singapore.
Starting out as a lawyer, Mdm Halimah, 62, had spent over three decades in the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). Before she became Speaker of Parliament in 2013, she had served as Minister of State at the then-Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.