Published: Tue, September 12, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

A Hijabi just became the 1st woman president in Singapore's history

A Hijabi just became the 1st woman president in Singapore's history

What should be a moment of celebration - Halimah will be Singapore's first female president - has proved contentious for several reasons and appears at odds with Singapore's reputation as a technocratic and efficient city state.

The Elections Committee announced her eligibility early Monday.

Singaporeans Tuesday poured scorn on the process to select their new president after an establishment figure was deemed the only eligible candidate, meaning no election will be held.

"All Singaporeans are unhappy that meritocracy and electoral fairness, core Singaporean values, have been eroded to fulfill perceived political goals".

Businessmen Farid Khan and Salleh Marican did not meet key criteria set for presidential candidates.

He also said Halimah had succeeded where even the U.S. had failed in electing its first woman president when former first lady Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in the USA presidential election in November a year ago.

Halimah added, "Once elected, the president, and the process may be reserved election, but the president is for everyone, all communities, regardless of your race or religion...the president, once elected, represents all races, all religions, all communities in Singapore".

Malays, who form just over 13 percent of Singapore's 3.9 million citizens and permanent residents, also underperform on measures such as university and secondary school education.

Yet the reserved election has also injured some pride.

Presidential hopefuls are required to submit applications to Singapore's Presidential Elections Committee.

What's more, critics point out that, if the goal really was to improve racial representation and justice, more meaningful measures could be adopted.

Singapore's prime minister has always been Chinese, and it was only in 2015 that the country finally had more than one Malay minister in the Cabinet at one time.

Still, a government report published in 2013 found Malays felt they were sometimes discriminated against and had limited prospects in some institutions, such as the armed forces. "I would like to invite Singaporeans to work together with me, so that we can work together for a united Singapore and a much stronger Singapore".

The last Malay to hold the post was the island republic's first president, Yusof Ishak, who served immediately after separation from Malaysia, from 1965 till 1970.

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