In a decisive victory, former deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam secured the presidential race in Singapore on Friday, maintaining strong support despite recent political scandals involving the ruling party, news agency AFP reported. Tharman, who served in key roles within the People’s Action Party (PAP) for over two decades, was projected to win 70% of valid votes, according to a sample count by the Elections Department. The final result of the three-way contest could change when full results are released.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) September 1, 2023
“It is not just a vote for me; it is a vote for Singapore’s future. My campaign was one of optimism and solidarity, and I believe that’s what Singaporeans want,” Tharman was quoted as saying by The Edge Malaysia.
According to reports, Ng Kok Song, a former chief investment officer of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte, finished second with 16%, and Tan Kin Lian, a presidential candidate in 2011, finished third with 14%.
In Singapore, the predominantly ceremonial presidential role has traditionally been dominated by candidates with strong ties to the ruling PAP. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong prepares to step down after nearly two decades in office, these election results indicate continued support for the PAP.
Lee’s departure is expected to coincide with national elections scheduled for 2025.
The election took place amid voter concerns about rising living costs, particularly high housing prices, as well as slowing economic growth and weaker global demand in the trade-dependent country. A slew of political scandals had also called the government’s impeccable reputation into question.
Despite the party’s worst-ever showing, Tharman, who is seen as independent-minded and has extensive government experience, secured the largest margin of votes in the 2020 general election, reports say.
While the prime minister runs the government, the president in Singapore holds certain powers, including the right to veto spending bills or requests to draw on past reserves, which were used to support the budget during the pandemic.
The president, whose term runs for six years, also has the authority to approve key civil service appointments and can instruct the anti-graft agency to continue an investigation, even if the prime minister objects.
Who Is Tharman Shanmugaratnam?
Tharman, an economist born in Singapore, formally launched his presidential campaign last month with a pledge to evolve the country’s culture to maintain its status as a “shining spot” in the world.
He entered politics in 2001 and has served in the public sector and ministerial positions with Singapore’s ruling PAP for over two decades. Additionally, he has experience in the government and with the city-state’s foreign reserves, estimated to be over Singapore dollars 2 trillion.
Tharman served as Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister from 2011 to 2019 but resigned from public and political posts in July to run for the presidency. He is married to Jane Yumiko Ittogi and has four children.
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