6 Things To Know About Halimah Yacob, Singapore's Soon-To-Be First Female President

She is also the first Malay leader the republic has had in 47 years.

Cover image via Straits Times

Former Speaker of Parliament, Halimah Yacob, is set to be Singapore's first female president

Halimah Yacob

Image via Phyllicia Wang/The New Paper

She emerged victorious by default as she was the only candidate to have been issued the Certificate of Eligibility by the Presidential Elections Committee on Monday, 11 September.

The other two candidates - Farid Khan, 61, chairman of marine services provider Bourbon Offshore Asia Pacific, and Mohamed Salleh Marican, 67, chief executive of Second Chance Properties, confirmed that their applications were rejected, as reported by New Straits Times.

Halimah will file her nomination papers at the People's Association headquarters in King George's Avenue. If everything is in order, she will be declared as Singapore's eighth president on Wednesday, 13 September, by the Returning Officer, Energy Market Authority chief executive Ng Wai Choong.

The 2017 Singaporean presidential election is a little unique, as it was reserved for candidates from a particular racial group - Malay - to ensure minority representation

In 2016, the Constitutional Commission suggested an amendment which basically says that if a member of any racial group has not been elected as the President after five continuous terms, the next Presidential election will be reserved for a candidate from that particular racial group, reported Straits Times.

"Every citizen, Chinese, Malay, Indian or some other race, should know that someone of his community can become President, and in fact from time to time, does become President," said Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, when commenting on the new election model last year.

Singapore has not had a Malay president since its first, Tun Haji Yusof bin Ishak. Yusof Ishak was a prominent journalist and is the co-founder of Utusan Melayu (now known as Utusan Malaysia) before becoming the first president of Singapore in 1965, after the country gained independence. He served for three terms until 1970.

Halimah's walkover win is a historic moment for Singapore. On that note, here are some interesting facts about Singapore's first female president:

1. Halimah's father was a watchman who passed away when she was only eight years old

Halimah photographed with her mother who passed away on 11 September 2015.

Image via Berita Harian via Straits Times

She was born on 23 August 1954 in Queen Street, Singapore. Halimah's late father was of Indian descent and her mother was Malay and she is the youngest of five children.

Halimah used to live in a one-room flat in Hindoo Road with her mother and four older siblings.

Growing up, she used to help with cleaning, washing, clearing tables, and serving customers at a nasi padang hawker stall her mother owned, according to a report by Straits Times.

2. She is a self-professed "ponteng queen"

In a recent interview with Channel NewsAsia, Halimah revealed that she almost got kicked out of school for missing too many classes as she had to help her mother at a food stall to support the family.

"I never turned up for school for long periods and finally I had to be marched to the principal’s office where she told me, 'Girl, if you keep not coming to school, I have to kick you out of school.' That was the final ultimatum.

"That was one of the worst moments of my life. But I told myself, 'Stop wallowing in self-pity, pick yourself up and move on'," she recalled.

Halimah attended the Singapore Chinese Girls' School and back then, she was one of the few Malay students there. She continued her education at the Tanjong Katong Girls' School and went on to study law at the University of Singapore. She was called to the Singapore Bar in 1981.

Halimah attained a Master of Laws from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2001 and fifteen years later, in 2016, she was conferred an honorary Doctor Of Laws Degree by the NUS.

3. Halimah is the only one in her family to attend university

Halimah receiving the Doctor of Laws degree from President Tony Tan Keng Yam on 7 July 2016.

Image via Berita Harian via Straits Times

In a report by Straits Times, it was mentioned that Halimah worked hard and made sure that she got a university education.

Help came in the form of a last-minute SGD1,000 (approximately RM3,127) annual bursary from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and her brother, who had just started work as a prison officer then, used to give her SGD50 (RM156) monthly.

Also, Halimah worked as a library clerk during term breaks to support herself and cover the rest of her living expenses during her university days.

4. Halimah entered politics in 2001 when she was elected as the member of parliament for the Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC). She is the first Malay female MP since Singapore's independence.

Halimah congratulated by supporters during Singapore's 2001 general election.

Image via Straits Times

Halimah contested for seats in Jurong GRC and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC and won in four general elections.

In 2011, she was appointed as the Minister of State at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. In November 2012, the ministry was restructured and Halimah became the Minister of State at the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

5. In 2013, the 63-year-old became Singapore's first female Speaker of Parliament

Image via Straits Times

Clearly a woman of many firsts, 2017 isn't the first time Halimah has made history. Four years ago, on 14 January 2013, Halimah was elected as the Speaker of Parliament by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

She succeeded former Speaker Michael Palmer who resigned after it was revealed that he was involved in an extramarital affair with the constituency director of the People's Association (PA).

"When I became Speaker, a lot of people were very delighted - a lot of women, women's groups. They were very happy that we now have the first female speaker.

"If the unintended consequence is that it helps to inspire, motivate women, particularly young women, then I'd be very grateful. Even now I get a lot of very young girls come up to me, schoolgirls even, to take photos. They say they feel very inspired. So I feel if that is one of the aspects of having a female as a President, then that's really something good. But as I said, people should look at not the gender, but the person and see what the person can contribute," she explained, when speaking to Channel NewsAsia.

Halimah stepped down as the ninth Speaker of Parliament of Singapore on 7 August 2017, to run for presidency.

6. She lives in a five-bedroom Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat in Yishun

Halimah, photographed preparing her own food at home in 2004.

Image via Lianhe Zaobao/Straits Times

Despite questions on why she has not "upgraded" since she became a Speaker of Parliament years ago, Halimah stressed recently that she will continue to live there even if she was elected as the president of Singapore.

"More than 80% of our population live in HDB flats and if it is good enough for them, it is good enough for me," she said in an interview with Straits Times in 2013.

She currently lives there with her husband, businessman Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee, 62, and three of her five children. In one of her past interviews, Halimah revealed that she and members of her family do their own chores and wash their own clothes, as she doesn't believe in having a maid.

If all is in order, Halimah will take office on Thursday, 14 September.

"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. My passion and commitment to serve the people of Singapore remain the same."

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