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Politics

Singapore expected to get first female president

Halimah Yacob sole eligible candidate, no election needed

Halimah Yacob, the former speaker of Singapore's parliament, talks to reporters outside the election department on Sept. 11 after being granted a certificate of eligibility to run for the Singaporean presidency.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Singapore is likely to swear in its first female president later this month after Halimah Yacob, the former speaker of parliament, received a certificate of eligibility to stand in presidential elections this year.

As Halimah is the only eligible candidate, Singaporeans will not have to vote for their new president, whose duties include promoting good bilateral ties and safeguarding the national coffers.

After entering politics in 2001, Halimah became a minister of state in 2011, and in 2013 was the first woman to be elected speaker of the house.  

The Singapore government made a significant amendment to the constitution this year regarding presidential elections, and reserved the position for a particular ethnic group if it had been unrepresented in the position for five continuous terms.

Singapore has a large ethnic Chinese population with Malay, Indian, and Eurasian minorities. Ensuring equal opportunities and proper representation have been keystones in establishing Singaporean national identity. 

Presidents have been elected for their six-year terms since 1991, and prior to that were appointed by parliament. Because of the new law, on this occasion only Malays were eligible to apply for the certificate of eligibility as a presidential candidate.

According to a press release issued by the Prime Minister's Office, five candidates had applied for certificates of eligibility, only three of whom were Malays. The release said reasons were provided to all the unsuccessful applicants, and they are "free to publish" that information. 

The legal amendment initially stirred some controversy in the city-state, which prides itself on meritocracy and equality. "Meritocracy went out the window as soon as this presidential election was reserved for one particular ethnic race over all others," said Hamish Brown, a veteran radio personality, on Facebook.

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