Singapore

Halimah is first woman to run for president

She will step down as Speaker and MP today to contest next month's election

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob will step down from her post to contest next month's presidential election, becoming the first woman to run for the highest office.

Announcing her decision to Marsiling residents and grassroots leaders at a National Day dinner last night, three weeks after she said she was considering running, she noted that she has been in public service for 40 years.

"Taking part in the presidential election would allow me to continue with my service to the people of Singapore," she added, to cheers and applause.

The upcoming election is reserved for Malay candidates, following changes to the law last year to ensure that the presidency reflects Singapore's multiracial society.

Madam Halimah, 62, will step down as Speaker, a post she has held since 2013, and as an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC today. She will also resign from the People's Action Party, where she is a member of the central executive committee.

This leaves the four-seat Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC short of one MP and without a minority MP. There is no requirement under the law to call a by-election if an MP resigns, even if that member is a minority.

Madam Halimah said she will ask Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to "ensure that there are proper replacements" for her various posts when she hands him her resignation letter today.

Taking part in the presidential election would allow me to continue with my service to the people of Singapore. Madam Halimah Yacob

She also said she will ask him to assign another grassroots adviser to her constituency .

"My main concern has always been service to the residents of Marsiling, and I want to make really sure that that is not disrupted in any way," she said.

"That is the reason why I have taken a bit of time to make a decision on this matter."

The GRC's three other MPs - National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Mr Alex Yam and Mr Ong Teng Koon - who were also at the dinner, pledged to "build on the good work" she has done.

"It was a tough decision to make," she told reporters with her husband, businessman Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee, 62, behind her.

"Though I will miss my residents, my constituency work and my role as Speaker in running for the office of the elected president, my passion to serve all Singaporeans remains unabated. It is a heavy responsibility, but I hope that with the support of Singaporeans, we can do more good together."

Madam Halimah also said she hopes to continue living in her five-room Housing Board flat even if she is elected president. She said she is comfortable in her flat in Yishun, where she has lived for more than 30 years.

She added: "I don't see why I can't continue, unless of course there are other considerations like security, for instance, because I know it can be quite a nightmare to ensure security in public housing."

Mr Mohammed Abdullah told reporters: "She is very capable, she works very hard and she is very experienced representing Singapore in various unions, so I think she is the right person."

As for the advice he gave her, he said: "The advice is, of course, carry on, go ahead."

He added that they would have to discuss issues such as family and housing matters.

Madam Halimah's decision to contest the elected presidency follows a busy few weeks where she met unionists, community leaders and residents, typically attending at least one event a day.

When asked what groups she will turn to for support, she said she has had the chance to talk to many groups.

She identified the unions as the most important group, saying: "Because I spent 33 years of my life in the labour movement. They are my backbone, and I have gone to almost all the unions to ask for support personally, and they have said that they will support me."

She said she has also spoken to other groups, including Malay/Muslim organisations, women's groups and several clan associations. But the most important thing, she added, is that she hopes to represent all Singaporeans and not just any segments or any groups.

"It is important that I represent all Singaporeans, and so I do hope that all Singaporeans will support me," she said.

Halimah YacobpresidentelectionPresidential Election