The Constitution provides for a President as Head of State. Before 1991, the President was appointed by Parliament and had largely ceremonial and community roles. Encik Yusof Ishak was the first President of the Republic of Singapore.
In January 1991, the Constitution was amended to allow for a President elected by the citizens of Singapore. The elected President will hold office for a fixed term of six years. There are no term limits to the presidency.
The elected presidency is a major constitutional and political change. Under the revision, the President can veto government budgets and key public appointments. This is to safeguard the national reserves and the integrity of the public service. The change meant that the Elected President now has a custodial function, in addition to the ceremonial and community roles.
The current President is Mdm Halimah Yacob, who was sworn in as the eighth President of the Republic of Singapore on 14 September 2017.
Mdm Halimah Yacob served in the National Trades Union Congress for 33 years. She held various positions, as Deputy Secretary General; Director of departments including Legal Services, Women’s Development and Labour Studies; and Executive Secretary of the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries. She was on various national committees including the Economic Review Committee.
She was Singapore’s representative in the International Labour Organisation for 12 years and the first Singaporean to be elected into the ILO. She represented workers in many ILO committees.
In 2001, Elected as a Member of Parliament for the Jurong Group Representation Constituency. Her final and fourth term as an MP was in the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.
In 2011, Appointed Minister of State for Community Development and Sports. She introduced various programmes for seniors and enhanced services for the disabled. She also laid the foundation for the Social Services Offices.
In 2013, Elected as Speaker of Parliament, the first woman to hold the position.
With her passion for social causes, Mdm Halimah is patron to more than 40 charitable and community organisations. She also championed women’s issues and was awarded Woman of the Year by Her World Magazine (2003) and AWARE Heroine Award (2011). She was inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (2014) and conferred the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year (2001).
Mdm Halimah obtained her law degree and Masters in Law from the National University of Singapore. In 2016, she was conferred the Doctor of Law by the NUS.
The President is responsible for safeguarding the national reserves and the integrity of the public service. The President also receives foreign dignitaries, officiates at state functions and performs other ceremonial and community duties.
Besides official functions, the President actively supports community and social causes. The President often graces events organised by grassroots, community and welfare groups, as well as ethnic and religious organisations.
The portraits of President Halimah and her spouse, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, are displayed in public buildings. The Presidential Standard is flown at the Istana in the day, when the President is in the country. The Presidential Crest is used on state crockery, gifts and stationery related to the President.