Halimah Yacob has been declared Singapore’s eighth president on Wednesday after a “walkover” election that saw no vote after no other contenders ran for the position. Yacob, 63, had been the only candidate deemed eligible to stand in the country’s Elections Department, having held a key public position as speaker of parliament for three years. The other two contenders, Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, were both denied eligibility, having fallen short of a constitutional rule that required any candidate from the private sector to have led a company with shareholder equity of at least 500 million Singapore dollars (372 million dollars).
Following the announcement, Yacob thanked her supporters in a speech, calling it a “a proud moment for Singapore, for multiculturalism and multi-racialism.” Yacob is Singapore’s first Malay president in 47 years and the first woman to occupy the president’s office. While some have applauded the historic moment, the election has also drawn public criticism due to what was seen as a lack of democratic process. Yacob addressed these concerns, saying “I am a president for everyone, regardless of race, language, religion or creed.”
The president is vested with the responsibility of overseeing the country’s national asset reserves, but does not hold any of the executive powers of the prime minister or members of the cabinet. Yacob is expected to be sworn into office on Thursday. The last Malay to hold the presidency was Yusof Ishak, whose image adorns the country’s banknotes. Yusof was president between 1965 and 1970, the first years of Singapore’s independence following a short-lived union with neighboring Malaysia, but executive power lay with Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s first prime minister.