Singapore names its first ever female president… but some people aren't happy

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Singapore has named its first ever female president, Halimah Yacob.

But the former speaker of parliament will begin her term amid controversy, despite being a popular public figure.

Some Singaporeans are outraged after it was revealed Mrs Halimah was the only candidate in the leadership race.

There were initially two other possible candidates in the running, Salleh Marican and Farid Khan.

But a government-appointed committee decided neither were eligible, making use of a recently tightened minimum equity rule on presidential candidates in Singapore.

Under the rule, companies owned by candidates must hold a minimum of £280m in shareholder’s equity for them to qualify for presidency.

Neither Marican nor Khan qualified under the rule, and so they were both ruled out.

Halimah Yacob is surrounded by supporters in Singapore after being named Singapore’s eighth president (AP)

Mrs Halimah does not qualify for presidency under those rules either.

But she was selected as she was previously a speaker in Singapore’s parliament, and those who have held selected public office positions do qualify.

After the country decreed the presidency, some joked on that she had been “selected, not elected”, with others saying it is proof the government think voters are “stupid”.

Supporters of Halimah Yacob cheer at the People’s Association centre on Nomination Day in Singapore (EPA)

Others vented their outrage on Twitter, using the hashtage #NotMyPresident, which was used after Donald Trump won the US election.

Mrs Halimah, a Muslim, is only the second president to come from the Malay ethic minority.

Further controversy was caused when it was revealed this election was open only to Malay candidates – a move that has been described as positive discrimination.

The government, which lauds its careful maintenance of national racial harmony, argued it was necessary to ensure minorities could have a chance at becoming president in Chinese-majority Singapore.

It has always in the past had an ethnically Chinese prime minister.

While some were delighted to see Mrs Halimah in office, others told how they were unhappy at what they say is overt manipulation of the government’s process.

Writer Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh wrote in a blog: “Singaporeans have always known that our politicians… consider themselves superior beings.” 

He added: “Now, with this reserved presidency, we have irrefutable proof about just how stupid they think we are.”


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