Singapore got its first female president Wednesday, but the decision has been faced with criticism that her selection was undemocratic after she was handed the job without a vote.
Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament from the Muslim Malay minority, did not have to face an election for the largely ceremonial post after authorities decided her rivals did not meet eligibility criteria.
It was not the first time in the affluent city-state — which is tightly controlled and has been ruled by the same party for decades — that the government has disqualified presidential candidates, making an election unnecessary.
But there was already unease about the process as it was the first time that the presidency had been reserved for a particular race, in this case the Malay community. The decision to hand her the job without an election added to the anger.
Social media was abuzz with criticism as Halimah, a bespectacled 63-year-old who wears a headscarf, was formally announced as president-elect, with Facebook user Pat Eng writing: “Elected without an election. What a joke.”
“I will call her President Select from now on,” said Joel Kong on the networking site, while some posts were marked with the hashtag #NotMyPresident — echoing the message used by upset Americans after the election of President Donald Trump
Halimah who was a member of parliament for the ruling People’s Action Party for nearly two decades before resigning to contest the presidency said
“I’m a president for everyone. Although there’s no election, my commitment to serve you remains the same,” she said.
Halimah added she would “start working immediately” to bring the country together.
She also insisted her status as Singapore’s first female president was “not just tokenism”, in a speech to a cheering crowd while wearing orange, a colour supposed to symbolise unity.