Singapore’s first woman president

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Photo Credit: South China Morning Post

Madam Halimah Yacob became Singapore’s first female President. Yacob is a 63-year-old woman from the local Malay community. She has been a member of Parliament for almost 20 years. She served as the first Parliament Speaker but had to leave that job to run for President.

She was sworn in as Singapore’s 8th President on Thursday, September 14. She won 2 weeks before the election was suppose to be held! Her term will last for 6 years.

What kind of government does Singapore have?  Singapore has a parliamentary form of government where the President doesn’t have that much power. Members of Parliament run the government and make the big decisions.

Wait a second: What happened to the other candidates? How did she win before an election? Two other people wanted to run in the election against Yacob but they were disqualified. Potential candidates have to meet a list of critieria set out in the Constitution. Unfortunately, the candidates didn’t meet this criteria.

Presidential hopefuls: Mdm Halimah Yacob; Mr Salleh Marican and Mr Farid Khan.

Both these other candidates ran private businesses. Amongst many rules, there is a rule that says private citizens running for office must own a large share of a profitable business. Unfortunately the other two contenders were successful, but not successful enough to qualify to stand for the Office of President!

Who votes for the President of Singapore? The citizens vote for the candidates. The candidates are chosen by the Election department of the government.

Why was this a reserved election? There was an important constitutional amendment made in 2016. The government wants to ensure that Singapore remains a multi religious and multi racial community. The new rule says that if no one from one of the larger communities (Chinese, Indian, Malay and such)  in Singapore has been the President for any of the five most recent terms of office (i.e. the last 30 years!) the new President must be chosen from that community. This year, officials decided the job would go to someone from the Malay community. These are a local group of people from around the country of Singapore.

Some people were unhappy that Yacob won without a vote. They called the decision unfair and undemocratic. However, Yacob promised to work for all the people of Singapore.

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