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Singapore Presidential Election 2023: Tharman Shanmugaratnam in landslide 70.40% win

Ex-senior minister trounces Ng Kok Song, Tan Kin Lian to be chosen as 9th President in 1st contested presidential election since 2011

Tharman Shanmugaratnam at Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre while awaiting the result of the 2023 Singapore Presidential Election. (PHOTO: Bruce Lim/Yahoo News Singapore)
Tharman Shanmugaratnam at Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre while awaiting the result of the 2023 Singapore Presidential Election. (PHOTO: Bruce Lim/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was elected as Singapore's ninth President on Saturday (2 September), following the city-state's first contested presidential election in 12 years.

The 66-year-old secured 1,746,427 votes, or 70.40 per cent of the total valid votes to emerge victorious over two other presidential candidates.

Former GIC investment chief Ng Kok Song, 75, garnered 390,041 votes, or 15.72 per cent of the total valid votes in his first election.

Ex-NTUC Income chief executive officer Tan Kin Lian, also 75, earned 344,292 votes, or 13.88 per cent of the valid votes, in his second presidential election. In his first election back in 2011, he won only 4.91 per cent of the total votes.

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The election results were officially announced by Returning Officer Tan Meng Dui on Saturday at 12.20am. A total of 2,480,760 Singapore citizens cast their votes on Friday, with 50,152 rejected votes..

Humbled by strong endorsement: Tharman

Hours before the official announcement, ELD released a sample count of the election, putting Tharman at receiving 70 per cent of the votes, Ng at 16 per cent and Tan at 14 per cent.

"I'm truly humbled for the strong endorsement that Singaporeans have given to me, and respect all Singaporeans for the views they've expressed, including those who did not vote for me," Tharman told the media at Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre, following the release of the sample count on Friday night.

"I believe that it's a vote of confidence in Singapore. It's a vote of optimism for a future in which we can progress together and support each other as Singaporeans.

"(Singapore) will have a future where we have deeper respect for one another. It'll have a future that ensures that every generation has the confidence of knowing that we have reserves and we have the backing that will help us. It has to be a future where Singapore is never treated as a small country, where we are treated seriously in the world as a partner of choice and where we can project our voice of reason internationally."

In conceding his election defeat, Ng told reporters he congratulated Tharman on a "magnificent victory".

"When I came forward to stand for the presidency, I said that my No.1 goal was to ensure that the people of Singapore have redeemed their right to vote in this presidential election," he added. "I think I have accomplished that goal because the presidential election did take place."

Likewise, Tan congratulated Tharman on his election victory, and said, "I wish him all the best in meeting the challenges ahead, and I hope he will be able to help bring a better life for the people."

Meet Singapore's 9th president

Tharman has been a familiar figure in Singapore politics, having served as its deputy prime minister, minister of finance and minister of education over his 22-year political career.

Formerly a deputy managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, he entered politics in 2001, securing victory in the general election as a People's Action Party (PAP) candidate in the Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

His four-time re-election shows his enduring popularity in his constituency. In the government, Tharman held key ministerial positions, including deputy prime minister (2011-2019) and minister for finance (2007-2015).

He last held the position of senior minister and coordinating minister for social policies until he stepped down in July to participate in the Presidential election.

Unifying presidency rooted in experience and independence

Tharman's presidential campaign had centred around the theme "Respect for All," reflecting his vision for a presidency suited to a new era.

Throughout his election campaign, he emphasised his commitment to utilising his 22 years of political experience to foster unity — a crucial responsibility of the President.

The 66-year-old expressed, "When we talk about being a unifying figure, I do not say this rhetorically or just as an aspiration, but I speak from a real track record," He pointed to his history of valuing diverse perspectives and consistently striving to find common ground.

Drawing inspiration from leaders like former president Ong Teng Cheong, who demonstrated independence within the context of prior party affiliations, Tharman stressed the importance of an independent mindset combined with extensive experience in policy-making.

Presidential powers

Singapore's constitution empowers the President to veto the utilisation of the country's reserves and make certain appointments to public offices. However, the role does not carry any executive authority.

In the election six years prior, Halimah Yacob, stood as the sole candidate, mainly due to stringent nomination criteria that no other individual managed to fulfil.

This year's election differed in that three contenders emerged, all of whom met the criteria of being independent to qualify as presidential candidates. A fourth aspirant, businessman George Goh, was deemed ineligible by the Presidential Elections Committee.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Ng Kok Song and Tan Kin Lian at the Nomination Centre in Singapore on 22 August 2023
(Left) Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Ng Kok Song and Tan Kin Lian at the Nomination Centre in Singapore on 22 August 2023. (PHOTOS: Reuters)

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