Halimah Yacob Is Now The President Of Singapore, But Not Everyone Is Happy About It

Returning officer Ng Wai Choong declared Halimah Yacob as Singapore's eighth president today, 13 September.

Cover image via Kua Chee Siong/Straits Times

Halimah Yacob has been declared as Singapore's eighth and first female president.

While it is certainly revolutionary for the republic, quite a number of Singaporeans have also called Halimah's walkover as a "sad day for Singapore".

Halimah Yacob greeting supporters at People's Association (PA) today, 13 September.

Image via Kua Chee Siong/Straits Times

After being the only candidate to be issued the Certificate of Eligibility by the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC), Halimah emerged victorious by default on Monday, 11 September. However, the news did not sit well with many Singaporeans.

The Straits Times reported that 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 neither ran a company with SGD500 million in shareholder equity in the last three years. This was a key threshold required for the Singaporean presidential candidates.

"The Committee was unable to satisfy itself that (Marican) had the experience and ability that was comparable to the experience and ability of a person who had served as the chief executive of a typical company with at least $500 million in shareholders’ equity and who satisfied Article 19(4)(a) of the Constitution in relation to such service," said the PEC, as reported by New Straits Times.

Likewise, Farid Khan's shareholders' equity of between SGD254.3 million and SGD63.25 million did not satisfy the criterion either. While both candidates expressed their disappointment over the rejection, they did, however, stress that they will continue to serve the people of Singapore in their own way.

The news of her win has been peppered with negative sentiments.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng pointed out that there are other eligible candidates who could have stepped up and given Singaporeans more options.

Calvin Cheng

Image via Redwire Times

"There are several other former Malay ex-Ministers, as well as Malay corporate bigwigs who DO helm corporations with at least SGD500 million in shareholder equity.

"Why didn't they step up? The Presidency is the highest office in the land in protocol, and when duty calls, one would have thought that good men and women will answer," read the post on his Facebook page.

Cheng said that former President Dr Tony Tan is the only person to be elected via genuine election. He also mentioned former president Ong Teng Cheong who contested and won against a reluctant opponent and SR Nathan who was elected as the president of Singapore via uncontested elections in 1999 and 2005.

"This cannot be good for the dignity of the office of President. This cannot be good for Singapore. I do hope that in future, men and women of stature will come forward more readily to contest to be our elected Head of State. Singaporeans deserve to vote for their elected Head of State," he added.

Meanwhile, Singaporean writer, poet, and playwright, Alfian Sa'at, called Halimah's victory as part of "history of rigging the system"

Alfian Sa'at

Image via The Independent Singapore

"From third world to first economically, and the reverse politically - the country's lurched from minimalist electoral democracy to illiberal democracy to sham democracy," read his post on Facebook. The status has more than 4,000 likes and 2,000 shares at the time of writing.

Alfian quoted Andrew Loh, co-founder of The Online Citizen, a Singaporean online blogging platform, who spoke about how the constitution and system has been amended to the preference of the ruling government, People's Action Party (PAP).

"While the elected president is said to be a check on the (PAP) government of the day, all four elected presidents so far are either ex-PAP ministers (Ong Teng Cheong, Tony Tan, Halimah Yacob, presuming she wins in September), or from the government's ranks (SR Nathan). Coincidence? Or #OwnselfCheckOwnself taken to its shameless extreme?" he asked.

He also took a jibe at the term reserved election, using the hashtag, #reservedforPAP.

Echoing Alfian's thoughts, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, Dr Chee Soon Juan, accused PAP of changing the rules to make way for Halimah's win

Dr Chee Soon Juan

Image via Unscrambled Singapore

"The walkover of the Presidential Election comes as no surprise. Nevertheless, this is a sad day for Singapore. The rule of law has been mercilessly mocked and denigrated.

"The contempt the PAP has shown for our constitution and our flag which symbolises the ideals of democracy, unity and progress must be roundly condemned," he said in a Facebook post on 11 September.

Protesting the outcome of the election, Chee said that its goal to strengthen its position as the ruling party in Singapore is detrimental to the interests and progress of the country.

"It is bad enough that the PAP has manipulated the system to get one if its own to become the president. That it has dangerously played the race card and divided the people to achieve this must be of grave concern to all Singaporeans," read the post.

With mixed feelings on the results brewing online, some pointed out that the criticism isn't against Halimah's qualifications, but more on the fact that she won uncontested - taking away the power of democracy from the people

While the situation has raised a heated political debate among Singaporeans, many others still took the time to congratulate Halimah

What do you think about the political situation in Singapore now? Let us know in the comment section below.

Halimah will be officially sworn in as Singapore's president at 6pm on Thursday, 14 September at the Istana. Here are some interesting facts about her:

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