SINGAPORE — Declaring her rise to the Republic's highest office as a "proud moment for Singapore", President-elect Halimah Yacob said it was testimony of the country's commitment to multiculturalism, multi-racialism, and gender diversity.
The 63-year-old, the sole qualifying candidate in this year's reserved election, was declared Singapore's eighth President shortly after noon on Wednesday (Sept 12) by Returning Officer Ng Wai Choong.
She is the first woman and first Malay in 47 years to ascend to the Presidency. President Yusof Ishak was Singapore’s first President and the only Malay to have held the office till he died in 1970.
Madam Halimah will be officially sworn-in at the Istana on Thursday at 6pm, the Prime Minister's Office said.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he is “confident she will fulfil her role with distinction”, as she will bring to the post “her long experience working with Singaporeans from all walks of life, and championing workers and disadvantaged groups”.
“Mdm Halimah will be sworn in tomorrow. I hope all of us will support her as our next President. I look forward to working with her to serve Singaporeans and the nation,” PM Lee added.
Addressing several hundred supporters – most of whom donned orange T-shirts – gathered at the Nomination Centre at the People's Association headquarters on Wednesday, Mdm Halimah said: "This is a proud moment for Singapore, for multiculturalism and multi-racialism.
"This shows that multi-racialism is not just a slogan, something good for us to say or hear. It means it really works in our society, that everyone has the chance to (make it to) the highest office of the land."
She added that her ascendancy to the Presidency is also evidence that Singapore's commitment to gender diversity is not mere tokenism.
"Every woman can aspire to the highest office of the land if you have the courage, determination and will to work hard," she told a cheering crowd of supporters.
Mdm Halimah also acknowledged online criticisms of this year's reserved Presidential Election, saying: "I know some have doubts about the reserved election, but I intend to serve all without hesitation or doubt.
"Although this is a reserved election, I am not a reserved president. I am a President for everyone, regardless of race, language, religion or creed.
"I represent everyone. My duty remains only to Singapore and Singaporeans, my duty remains only to you."
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.
There was, however, no contest as she was the sole eligible candidate who received both the Certificate of Eligibility and Community Certificate.
Despite this, Mdm Halimah told the crowd that her commitment to serve Singaporeans remains the same.
"There is no diminution, even one bit, of my desire, passion, commitment to serve you," she said.
"In fact, my resolve to work hard, to work tirelessly and with great sincerity is even greater. These are values which I hold very dear to me when I perform my public duties and my public service," added Mdm Halimah.
"And it means even greater to me now as I become President-elect," she said.
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 deemed 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.
In his Facebook post, PM Lee thanked Mr Salleh and Mr Farid for coming forward as candidates, and for accepting the Presidential Elections Committee’s decisions.
He added that they conducted themselves with propriety and decorum, and did not “confuse people with wild promises that exceeded the remit of the President, which had happened before”.
“This is the way to make our democratic processes work properly and in the interest of Singaporeans," he said.