Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament, was declared elected as Singapore’s first woman president on Wednesday, after the returning officer announced she was the sole candidate to qualify for the contest.
Aiming to strengthen a sense of inclusivity in the multicultural city-state, Singapore had decreed the presidency, a largely ceremonial post, would be reserved for candidates from the minority Malay community this time.
“Although this is a reserved election, I’m not a reserved president,” Halimah said in a speech at the elections department office. “I’m a president for everyone.” Halimah’s experience as house speaker automatically qualified her under the nomination rules.
Of the four other applicants, two were not Malays and two were not given certificates of eligibility, the elections department said earlier this week. The last Malay to hold the presidency was Yusof Ishak, whose image adorns the country’s banknotes.
Yusof was president between 1965 and 1970, the first years of Singapore’s independence following a short-lived union with neighbouring Malaysia, but executive power lay with Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s first prime minister.
The separation of Singapore from Malaysia gave ethnic Malays a clear majority in Malaysia, while ethnic Chinese formed the majority in independent Singapore.