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Halimah Yacob
Halimah Yacob at the Enthronement of Naruhito (1).jpg
Halimah in 2019
8th President of Singapore
In office
14 September 2017 – 14 September 2023
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Preceded by Tony Tan
Succeeded by Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Personal details
Born (1954-08-23) 23 August 1954 (age 69)
Colony of Singapore
Political party Independent
Other political
People's Action Party (2001–2017)
Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee
(m. 1980)
Children 5
Alma mater University of Singapore (LLB)
National University of Singapore (LLM)

Halimah Yacob DUT (born 23 August 1954) is a Singaporean former politician and lawyer who served as the eighth president of Singapore from 2017 to 2023. Prior to her presidency, she served as Speaker of Parliament between 2013 and 2017. She is the first female speaker and president in Singapore's history. She is one of the living former presidents of Singapore.

The Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) announced the appointment of former president Halimah Yacob as its new chancellor from 1 October 2023.

A former member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP), she was the Member of Parliament (MP) representing the Bukit Batok East division of Jurong GRC between 2001 and 2015, and the Marsiling division of Marsiling–Yew Tee GRC between 2015 and 2017.

After a constitutional amendment made in 2017, the 2017 presidential election was specifically reserved for candidates from the Malay community. Halimah resigned from the PAP and became an independent—one of the qualifications needed to run for the presidency—and ran for the 2017 presidential election which she won in an uncontested election, after the other presidential hopefuls except for her did not meet the qualifications.

During her presidency, Halimah exercised presidential discretionary powers to approve emergency funding for Singapore's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also spoke in support of women's rights. She did not seek for a re-election in the 2023 presidential election. Her term ended & had officially retired on 13 September 2023. She was succeeded by Tharman Shanmugaratnam on the following day.

Early life and education

Halimah was born on 23 August 1954 at her family home on Queen Street in Singapore, to an Indian father and Malay mother. Her father was a watchman who died due to a heart attack when she was eight years old, leaving her and four siblings to be brought up by her mother. Her family was in poverty at the time of her father's death, and she helped her mother to sell nasi padang outside the former Singapore Polytechnic (now Bestway Building) along Prince Edward Road.

She attended Singapore Chinese Girls' School and Tanjong Katong Girls' School before graduating from the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore) in 1978 with a Bachelor of Laws degree and was called to the Singapore Bar in 1981. She subsequently went on to complete a Master of Laws degree at the National University of Singapore in 2001.


Halimah began her career working as a legal officer at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), before becoming the director of its legal services department in 1992. In 1993, Halimah was one of the six assentors appointed in that year's presidential election to eventual president-elect Ong Teng Cheong. In 1999, she was later appointed as a director of the Singapore Institute of Labour Studies (now Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute).

Political career

Halimah made her political debut in the 2001 general election as part of a five-member PAP team contesting in Jurong GRC, which was led by then-minister Lim Boon Heng, and a would-be minister who would go on to be her presidential successor Tharman Shanmugaratnam who also made his debut. She served as the member of parliament for Bukit Batok East until 2015 where she was elected at the newly-formed Marsiling–Yew Tee GRC.

As an office holder

In her first term, Halimah was appointed Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports. Following a Cabinet reshuffle in November 2012, she was appointed Minister of State for Social and Family Development. She had also served as Chairperson of the Jurong Town Council.

In January 2015, Halimah was co-opted into the PAP's Central Executive Committee (CEC), the party's highest decision-making body.

As Member of Parliament, Halimah has spoken out actively against Islamic extremism, in particular condemning and disassociating from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.

Speaker of Parliament

..... Halimah was elected Speaker on 14 January 2013, the first woman to hold the post in Singapore's history.

Trade union involvement

Halimah served at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as Deputy Secretary-General, Director of the Legal Services Department and Director of the Women's Development Secretariat. She had also served as Executive Secretary of the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries.

Halimah was elected as the Workers' Vice-chairperson of the Standards Committee of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva from 2000 to 2002 and in 2005. Between 2003 and 2004, she was the Workers' Spokesperson for the ILC Committee on Human Resources Development and Training.

2017 presidential election

Speculation and announcement

While speaking during the debate on the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill on 6 February 2017, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing addressed Halimah as "Madam President" twice instead of "Madam Speaker", drawing laughter from the PAP MPs and leading to widespread speculation that Halimah would be the party's preferred candidate for the reserved presidential elections.

On 6 August 2017, Halimah announced that she would be stepping down as Speaker of Parliament and MP of Marsiling–Yew Tee the next day to run for the presidency in the 2017 presidential election, which was reserved for members of the Malay community. She was widely viewed as the PAP's candidate for the election, and was endorsed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In an interview published on 11 August 2017, Halimah gave her views on the reserved presidential election. She said that it "shows we don't only talk about multiracialism, but we talk about it in the context of meritocracy or opportunities for everyone, and we actually practise it". Although some commentators have felt that the reserved election did not promote meritocracy, Halimah rejected that view, as she described, "All candidates have to qualify ... If we weaken eligibility criteria for those taking part in a reserved election, yes, then we are compromising meritocracy for representation. We are not - the same criteria apply to everybody". Regarding commentators who have questioned the lower qualifying bar for public sector candidates like herself, Halimah said, "It is an open, transparent system ... has been in place since 1991".


On 25 August 2017, Halimah launched her official campaign website, including her campaign slogan "Do Good Do Together", which was criticised by many for being ungrammatical. She defended her slogan, explaining that it is meant to be catchy. In response to public queries whether Halimah broke election rules by campaigning ahead of the nomination day, the Elections Department clarified that its rule which forbids candidates from campaigning before close of nomination only applies to candidates who are nominated.

Halimah's campaign expenses reached only $220,875 out of the $754,982.40 legal limit. Her expenses were used for promotional material, room rental, office supplies, food, transport and phone bills. Queries were also raised regarding Halimah's long affiliation with the PAP and perceived lack of political independence as she quit the party just one month ago to campaign in the election. Halimah responded by comparing herself to former President Ong Teng Cheong, who was also a PAP member before being elected. She also cited that she had abstained from voting in an amendment for the Human Organ Transplant Act in 2007.

Former NMP Calvin Cheng suggested that Halimah does not appear to have the professional experience needed to manage the financial reserves. According to's estimate, her financial management involvement is only about $40 million, much less than the stringent $500 million shareholders’ equity requirement for private sector candidates.


Being the only candidate to be issued a Certificate of Eligibility, Halimah became the eighth President of Singapore. Tan Cheng Bock, a former presidential candidate, wrote that Halimah "will occupy the most controversial presidency in the history of Singapore." The Economist described her as "popular and able". She is also the nation's first female President and Southeast Asia's fourth female Head of State after Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines and Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia.


Halimah's sudden resignation as sole minority MP in Marsiling–Yew Tee GRC has sparked calls among the opposition for a by-election as the purpose of GRC is to ensure minority representation. The PAP government refused to hold a by-election, culminating in the filing of a lawsuit by Wong Souk Yee, a resident in the GRC. A hearing was set for 15 January 2018.

On 13 September 2017, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) filed a lawsuit in the High Court against the PAP government for refusing to call a by-election in Marsiling–Yew Tee GRC following Halimah's resignation from her post as the sole minority MP in her constituency.

In a High Court hearing conducted on 23 January 2018, Wong's lawyer, Peter Low, argued that the Parliamentary Elections Act should be interpreted such that all MPs of the group representation constituency have to leave their spots when one or more seats are left empty, or when only one remaining MP is a minority candidate. He cited Article 49 (1) of the Constitution, which states that when "the seat of a Member… has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election" to support his argument.

After the Elections Department announced that Halimah was the only possible candidate for the presidency, global media monitoring house Meltwater observed a significant increase in negative sentiment on social media surrounding the Presidential Elections from 11 to 12 September 2017. The data shows 83% of negative sentiment and 17% of positive sentiment. Following the announcement, a number of Singaporeans began using the hashtag #NotMyPresident on Facebook and Twitter to voice their disappointment. In response, The Straits Times reported that there was the use of #halimahismypresident by an "equally vocal group", urging "Singaporeans to rally round their next president".

Halimah's decision to remain staying in her public housing HDB flat at Yishun raised security concerns. On 2 October 2017, Halimah accepted the government's decision to move her out of her Yishun flat to a more secure location. The government keeps track on the residence and security arrangements for her as well.

Presidency (2017–2023)

KOREA The 20th President Inauguration Ceremony 565 (52062283752)
President Halimah Yacob at the inauguration of the South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul, 10 May 2022

Halimah was sworn on 14 September 2017 as the president of Singapore at The Istana. She was ex officio appointed Chancellor of the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University.

Halimah made her first state visit as president to Brunei on 11 May 2018, where she witnessed the signing of a financial technology agreement and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to exchange information related to money laundering and terrorist financing between Singapore and Brunei. At the invitation of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Halimah was the first president of Singapore to visit the Netherlands since the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries on 7 December 1965. The visit took place from 20 to 24 November 2018.

In September 2019, Halimah oversaw the signing of eight memorandums with the Philippines, allowing Singaporean companies and small and medium-sized enterprises to expand in the areas of data protection, science and technology and skills training and development of human resources.

Advocate for gender equality

In 2019, Halimah advocated for companies to embrace gender equality, noting that it will increase innovation and business profitability during her speech at the Women's Forum Asia. She had also publicly voiced her views about a local podcast, Okletsgo, for their offensive remarks against women and asked the hosts of the show for an apology for their remarks.

Personal life

Halimah is married to Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee, of Arab descent, and they have five children. Mohammed graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. It was also where he first met Halimah.

Although Halimah is categorised as an Indian Muslim due to her father's descent, she ran for the 2017 presidential election as a Malay candidate and identifies herself as a Malay Muslim.

After being sworn in as president, she was known to be the first president residing in a HDB flat. Her flat was a duplex in Yishun, consisting of one 5-room flat and one 4-room flat joined by demolishing the median wall. Halimah previously stated that she would not be moving out of her HDB flat during her term in office. On 2 October 2017, however, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that she would be moving out of the public housing apartment, due to security threats identified by security agencies.


Foreign honours

  •  Saudi Arabia:
    • Collar of the Order of King Abdulaziz (6 November 2019).
  •  Kazakhstan
    • Order of Friendship 1st class (22 May 2023).


For serving Singapore with distinction over four decades and for her lifetime of devoted and distinguished service – she was awarded the Darjah Utama Temasek (With High Distinction) on 29 October 2023.

In recognition of her contributions, she was awarded the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award in 2001, the Her World Woman of the Year Award in 2003, and the AWARE Heroine Award 2011.

She was also inducted into the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations' Singapore Women's Hall of Fame in 2014.

On 22 May 2023, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev awarded Halimah Yacob the Order of Friendship 1st class.

See also

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