Halimah Yacob Assumes as President of Singapore


It was unfortunate that former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob's ascension to the presidency was by means of a walkover, as the other two hopefuls were found by the Presidential Elections Committee to have not met the eligibility requirements set down by law. But what could have been a notable milestone for Singapore's democracy is instead being publicly questioned as a rigged process, and her legitimacy is already coming under fire.

Halimah, a mother of five, was also asked how she planned to unite the people as a president, given the many differing views on the reserved presidential election.

The Elections Department (ELD) confirmed that only one person will be issued with both certificates needed to contest the election. The last point was underscored when she had earlier expressed a wish to continue living in her public flat, although she understood why security considerations would make that impractical.

In Singapore, the prime minister is the most powerful political leader, while the president's role is largely ceremonial.

Under amendments to the Constitution that came into effect in June this year, applicants had to show that they helmed a company with at least $500 million in shareholders' equity.

Yacob is the second Malay to become president after Yusof Ishak who became president in 1965 after the country became independent.

"I can only say that I promise to do the best that I can to serve the people of Singapore, and that doesn't change whether there is an election or no election", she said.

Singapore's population is 74% Chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indian and 3.2% are the ambiguously named "Others". Tan had narrowly lost the previous presidential election in 2011 to Tony Tan, a former deputy prime minister widely recognized as the government-favored candidate, and planned to run again.

"In that respect, reserving this next election for the Malays is appropriate - unfortunately, because of these circumstances around the world which Singapore is caught up in", Tan said.

Analysts said Singaporeans may take time to accept such reserved elections.

He also said Halimah had succeeded where even the USA had failed in electing its first woman president when former first lady Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in the USA presidential election in November past year.