SINGAPORE, May 29 (The Straits Times/ANN): President Halimah Yacob will not be running for a second term as head of state in the upcoming election in 2023.
Announcing her decision on Monday, she said: “After very careful consideration, I have decided not to stand for re-election.”
Her term expires on Sept 13 and the presidential election, which is held on a regular six-year cycle, has to be called by then.
“It has been a great honour and privilege to serve as the eighth President of Singapore for the past six years,” she said in a statement. “The experience has been most inspiring and, at the same time, humbling.”
Madam Halimah, who is Singapore’s first female president, said she was aware of the tremendous responsibilities of the presidency when she took office in 2017.
“I have tried my best to fulfil them. My aim was to help create a more caring and compassionate society,” the 68-year-old added.
The President said she was supported on this journey by many Singaporeans who strongly shared her belief.
“Working together, we strengthened the voices of our communities and uplifted those who are most in need, particularly the disadvantaged and vulnerable among us,” she said.
During her term, the President’s Challenge focused on empowering people with disabilities, building a digitally inclusive society and supporting caregivers, among others.
Her weekly schedule was packed with visits to social service agencies, non-profit organisations and companies that promoted the causes she was supporting.
She also championed various issues, including gender equality and protecting older workers.
Madam Halimah was elected in 2017 with no contest as there were no other eligible Malay candidates for the election, which was reserved for the Malay community as they had not had a member become president in the past five terms.
Constitutional amendments were passed in November 2016 to reserve the elected presidency for candidates of a particular racial group if there has not been a president from the group for the five most recent presidential terms.
The last Malay president before Madam Halimah was Mr Yusof Ishak, who held the post from 1965 to 1970.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Madam Halimah approved draws on the country’s past reserves of up to $52 billion in the 2020 financial year, $11 billion in 2021 and $6 billion in 2022, to fund crisis measures.
On Monday, she said she was very proud of Singaporeans who stood together during the pandemic to support each other, which enabled the country to transit safely to its present state.
“Our social cohesion was put to the test, and we passed with flying colours,” she said.
“Many foreign leaders whom I met while representing Singapore internationally to strengthen our bilateral relations, had expressed their respect and admiration for our good system of governance, underpinned by strong social cohesion among our multiracial and multi-religious society.”
She noted that the presidency is the highest office in the land and a key institution in Singapore’s democracy. It unifies the nation by embodying the people’s shared values and aspirations, she said.
“The unifying role of the presidency, working closely together with the Government to safeguard Singapore’s future, has always been critical to our nation’s success, and will be even more important going forward, as we find our way in a troubled and uncertain world.”
Madam Halimah said she was grateful to all Singaporeans for their trust, understanding and kindness during her tenure, and to the many community, social and business organisations, who inspired her with their conviction and enthusiasm to build a better Singapore.
She also thanked her husband and family “for their unstinting support throughout my presidency”.
Madam Halimah had started her career with National Trades Union Congress in 1978 as a legal officer. She entered politics in 2001, serving as MP for Jurong GRC for three terms before becoming an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC after the 2015 General Election.
In 2011, she was appointed Minister of State in the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.
She moved to the Ministry of Social and Family Development in 2012, before becoming the first woman to be appointed Speaker of Parliament in 2013.
“I have been most fortunate to be given the chance to serve all Singaporeans regardless of race, language or social standing as the President of Singapore,” she said on Monday.
“I will forever cherish the fond memories of the people I have met, and the experiences acquired during my term. These will inspire me to continue contributing to our society and nation in other ways for as long as I am able to." - The Straits Times/ANN