Former Indian-origin Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was elected President on Friday, comfortably securing victory in the city-state’s first contested vote for the largely ceremonial position in over a decade. According to a sample count from the Elections Department, the 66-year-old economist earned more than 70 percent of valid votes. He was a longtime stalwart of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) but stepped down from his government and party leadership positions earlier this year, stressing independence during his campaign. The race was widely seen as a test of public sentiment amid economic challenges and recent high-profile scandals.
Analysts say his landslide win shows that Singaporeans still support the government as long as the right candidate is put forward. Tharman was a well-known face to voters, having served in key roles within the PAP for decades. He maintained strong support even after the scandals that rocked the country over the past few months, including a rare graft investigation of a minister and public outcry over government officials renting state-owned properties.
The elections were peaceful, with most voters turning out in time for the 6 p.m. polling deadline. Long but orderly lines snaked from the voting stations, starkly contrasting the raucous scenes often accompanying other elections. Despite the challenges, observers say turnout was higher than expected, which is a good sign that Singaporeans remain committed to the democratic process.
In a brief speech after being declared the winner, Tharman thanked Singaporeans for their support. He also vowed to build a “future of optimism” for the nation. In his address, he urged all citizens to work together and support each other regardless of background or political affiliation differences.
“My fellow Singaporeans, I am truly humbled by the strong endorsement you gave me in our nation’s presidential election,” he said. He added that he looked forward to working with all Singaporeans to continue to improve the lives of people in the country.
Tharman is the ninth Singaporean to hold the position, which is the head of state and head of government for the city-state of 5.6 million. He will assume the duties of the office when incumbent President Halimah Yacob’s six-year term expires on September 13. Tharman is the third Indian-origin person to serve as Singapore’s president. The multi-generational Tamil citizen, born and bred in the country, graduated from the London School of Economics before completing a master’s degree at Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge. He has served on international panels and is a renowned figure in the global investment community. He has also held senior posts in the government and advised the prime minister on policy issues. His father, Professor Kanagaratnam Shanmugaratnam, was a prominent pathologist who significantly contributed to cancer research in the country. The family traces its roots to the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The affluent politician is an avid traveler who has visited nearly all the continents.