Singapore names first female president amidst controversy


On Wednesday, Singapore announced former speaker of parliament Halimah Yacob as its first female president.

Yacob's appointment to the largely ceremonial six-year post did not come without its controversy, with critics expressing dismay at the fact that some candidates were disqualified and the election went uncontested.

"Unfortunately, the process that led to this outcome has not reflected our hopes," rights group Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE)said in an online statement.

The group also said it hoped "more will be done to improve access to politics for all of Singapore’s women".

With the stated aim of strengthening a sense of inclusivity, Singapore declared that the presidency for this term would be reserved for candidates from the minority Malay community. Of the four other candidates nominated, two were not Malays and two were not qualified to contest, the elections department said on Monday.

Yacob automatically qualified as she had held a senior government post for more than three years.

Other criticisms levelled against the presidential election include a stipulation that a candidate from the private sector must have headed a company with paid-up capital of at least S$500 million ($370 million).

While the prime minister's office declined to comment on the criticism of the election process, opposition politician Yee Jenn Jong offered comment via a blog post.

"It would have restored some of the lost moral authority by her winning against credible opponents through popular votes," Yee Jenn Jong said.

"She is, after all, a veteran in elections and has won handsomely in the four general elections she stood in."

Yacob, 63, did not seem at all fazed by the controversy, saying "Although this is a reserved election, I'm not a reserved president." 

"I'm a president for everyone.

"Whether or not there is an election or no election, my promise is to serve everyone and I will serve with great vigor, with a lot of hard work, with the same passion and commitment," she said in a speech at the election nominations office.

Singapore's incoming president is set to be sworn into office on Thursday.