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Halimah Yacob declared president-elect

September 13, 2017 4:04 AM
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SINGAPORE - Madam Halimah Yacob is now Singapore's president-elect, after submitting her paperwork for the presidential election on Wednesday (Sept 13).

The People's Association Headquarters in Jalan Besar, the designated nomination centre for the election, was a sea of orange as about 1,000 unionists, residents and supporters dressed in her campaign colour gathered to support her in her journey to becoming Singapore's first Malay president in 47 years, and first woman president.

They broke into loud cheers, clapped and waved flags as returning officer Ng Wai Choong declared her the president-elect in a walkover.

Banners were also unfurled with messages congratulating "President Halimah Yacob", though she will be sworn in as Singapore's eighth president on Thursday.

The procedure brought to a close Singapore's first election reserved for candidates from the Malay community, following constitutional changes that ensure the presidency reflects Singapore's multiracial society.

Madam Halimah, 63, was the only presidential hopeful who was given the green light to stand for the office, having held the key government post of Speaker of Parliament since 2013.

Earlier, as she made her way to the nomination centre from the NTUC Centre, flanked by members of her campaign team and accompanied by her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, 63, she said to reporters: "I'm feeling good. I'm looking forward to making sure that my nomination is accepted. That's the most important."

Mr Mohamed Abdullah, a retired businessman, asked if he was proud of his wife, said: "Of course!"

Some 800 supporters who had gathered at the nomination centre, some since 9.30am, cheered as she arrived and made her way to the hall with her proposer, Singapore Business Federation chairman and former Nominated MP Teo Siong Seng, seconder, PPIS (Singapore Muslim Women's Association) chief executive officer Mohd Ali Mahmood, and eight assentors.

Like Madam Halimah, many in the group were dressed in orange - a colour she chose for her campaign as it represents unity.

Among the supporters were many unionists, including 50 members of the United Workers of Electronics & Electrical Industries, had arrived at 9.30am, half an hour before the nomination centre opened, armed with banners, whistles and clappers.

Madam Halimah was the union's executive secretary from 2004 to 2011 and is still its adviser.

The NTUC Centre downtown was her first stop after leaving her Yishun family flat on Wednesday.

Madam Halimah, who started her public service career at the National Trades Union Congress as a legal officer in 1978, had gone there to meet up with key members of her team. They include NTUC president Mary Liew and veteran unionist G. Muthukumarasamy.

When Madam Halimah left the NTUC in 2011 to run for the general election, she had risen through the ranks of the labour movement to become its deputy secretary-general, gaining a reputation as a tireless champion of workers' rights.

The NTUC had thrown its weight behind her presidential bid, and unionists and bigwigs from the labour union were out in full force to stand by "Sister Halimah".

Also at the nomination centre were residents and grassroots leaders from her former wards of Bukit Batok East and Marsiling, where she was MP for the past 16 years, who made their way across the island to wish her well.

Singaporean Vincent Teo, 71, said he wanted to show his support for Madam Halimah as she had done a lot for the poor and needy. He had with him a bunch of orange gerberas, as he said the flowers were "bright" like Madam Halimah.

"I hope she will bring brightness and cheer to Singapore and Singapore will continue to grow and prosper with her as President. She's very down to earth," he said.

Madam Marmon Kamat, in her 70s, had known Madam Halimah through voluntary welfare organisation Ain Society, where Madam Halimah is an adviser. The wheelchair user was at the nomination centre with her husband Atan Ibrahim.

She said: "I came to support her because I'm really happy there will be a Malay woman president. "

Madam Halimah had resigned from politics in August, stepping down from the People's Action Party and as Speaker and MP, to contest the presidential election.

When she was declared the only candidate eligible to run in the election on Monday, she had said: "Whether there is an election or no election, my passion and commitment to serve the people of Singapore remains the same."

The uncontested election drew criticism from some Singaporeans, who went online to express disappointment and frustration that they would not get to vote.

Two other presidential hopefuls - marine services firm chairman Farid Khan, 61, and property company chief executive Salleh Marican, 67 - did not get a certificate of eligibility from the Presidential Elections Committee, tasked to evaluate candidates, and have dropped out of the race.

Neither had run a company with $500 million in shareholder equity for the most recent three years, a key threshold required for candidates relying on their private-sector experience.


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