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Singapore’s President-elect Tharman says, surprised by ‘high degree of endorsement’

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Singapore, Sept 2: Amid pouring congratulatory messages, Singapore’s President-elect Tharman
Shanmugaratnam on Saturday said he was surprised by “such a high degree of endorsement,” and
that he was very serious about wanting to fulfil the mandate given by the people.
Singapore-born Indian-origin candidate in a predominantly Chinese multi-racial Singapore, 66-year-
old Tharman won the presidential election with a massive vote share of 70.4 per cent in the early
hours of Saturday. This is the first contested presidential election since 2011.
Speaking to journalists at his first doorstop interview since the official result was declared, Tharman
said, “I did not expect such a high degree of endorsement, which also means there was a fair
number of people who would normally not vote in favour of the ruling party, who decided that this
was not a political election, this is not a General Election. And they decided to vote for me, and I
think that’s also very encouraging.”
Describing the result as “remarkable unity” from Singaporeans, the economist-turned-politician said
he thinks Singaporeans “have been very sensible in the way they voted.”
“I think it’s also interesting that Singaporeans, whom I believe want a non-partisan President … They
do not think that having been a member of a political party or even being a member of Cabinet
should diminish a person’s ability to be non-partisan,” Channel News Asia quoted the former deputy
prime minister and senior minister as saying.
“It all depends on the individual, the character of the person, the reputation of the person, and the
ability to reach across all the boundaries you can think of in Singapore. That’s always been my
orientation.
“So, I think it’s a very interesting lesson that Singaporeans do not think that my political service all
these years was a disadvantage.”
Tharman also said he is looking forward to meeting outgoing President Halimah Yacob and asking
her for advice.
“She has served Singapore remarkably well. I admire her equanimity, her poise, the dignity with
which she’d held the Presidency,” he added.
“One of the first things I want to do is sit down with her and get her thoughts and advice coming
from the last six years. I'm not going to rush the process, but I'm very serious about wanting to fulfil
the mandate that's been given to me by the people.”
President Halimah completes her six-year term on September 13.
Meanwhile, congratulatory messages have been pouring in from world leaders.
In a statement dated September 1, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, “The
United States and Singapore share a longstanding and robust partnership built on a foundation of
mutual respect, shared values and common interests.
“We look forward to working closely with President-elect Shanmugaratnam and the people of
Singapore to further strengthen the enduring bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two
nations,” The Straits Times quoted the senior US official as saying.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has congratulated Tharman on social media platform X, formerly
known as Twitter. “I look forward to working closely with you to further strengthen the India-
Singapore Strategic Partnership,” Modi said.
On the same platform, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Singapore Kateryna Zelenko sent Tharman her
congratulations: “We look forward to further good cooperation and friendship.”
After 22 years in politics, Tharman, who had resigned from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and
his posts in Cabinet in July to run for president, had a landslide win. It was surprising and unexpected
for some analysts given the recent scandals that plagued PAP in the last few weeks, which they felt
could have tainted his candidacy, according to a report by The Straits Times, Singapore’s leading
daily.
”Singaporeans have chosen Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam to be our next president by a decisive
margin. As head of state, he will represent us at home and abroad, and exercise custodial powers, including over the reserves and key appointments,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a congratulatory message to the newly-elected president.

Lee noted that in the election, both voters and candidates showed a greater understanding of the
roles and duties of the president, which bodes well for Singapore. (PTI)

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