Singapore, Sept 14: Halimah Yacob, who has been in public service for 40 years, was elected as Singapore’s first woman president on Wednesday. According to the returning officer, Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of Singapore parliament, was the sole candidate to qualify for the contest. Halimah comes from the minority Malay community of Singapore. The 63-year-old will be the first Malay head of state in more than 47 years. In January 2013, she became the first woman to occupy the position of Parliament Speaker.

To strengthen a sense of inclusivity, Singapore had decreed the presidency would be reserved for candidates from the Malay community this time. There were five applicants including Halimah Yacob for the presidential post. While the two candidates were not Malay, the other two were not given certificates of eligibility. The last Malay origin person to hold the office was the country’s first president, Yusof Ishak, who served from 1965 to 1970.

Halimah Yacob, the youngest of five children, was just eight years old when her father died. Her mother raised them working at a food stall. “I have experienced poverty firsthand and know how debilitating it can be as you struggle to survive, to put food on the table and also grapple with the uncertainty of the future on a daily basis. It limits your choices but also tempers your determination to succeed,” Halimah wrote in her bio on her website.

Halimah began her career in 1978 with the National Trades Union Congress. In 2001, she entered politics at the urging of then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and became Member of Parliament for the Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC). In 2011, she was given the portfolio of Minister of State for the then-Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Before announcing her candidature for the presidential post of Singapore, Halimah Yacob Halimah was serving as both Speaker of Parliament and MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.