After more than a month since his initial announcement, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a seasoned politician and former Deputy Prime Minister, officially launched his presidential campaign. Stepping down from active politics after 22 years, the 66-year-old candidate expressed his strong belief in the need to evolve Singapore’s culture and work towards maintaining the nation’s global standing.
“I stepped into this race because I feel very strongly in the need to evolve Singapore’s culture, some of our norms and the way we go about working with each other so that we remain a shining spot in the world,” Tharman passionately stated during a press conference.
The upcoming 2023 presidential election is scheduled for September, as President Halimah Yacob’s six-year term will come to an end on September 13. Tharman, accompanied by his wife Jane Yumiko Ittogi, emphasized the challenges facing Singapore on both domestic and global fronts. He stressed the importance of avoiding a divided society and pledged to be “a President for a new era.”
In his campaign, Tharman showcased his track record of unifying people during his 22 years in politics, an essential role for the President of Singapore. “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 asserted.
Beyond unification, Tharman also promised to uphold the responsibilities of the presidency, including safeguarding the reserves, drawing upon his extensive experience in government and international organizations. He highlighted his “more basic orientation” of integrity and independence of mind, traits he is known for and believes are critical for the role of President.
Prior to his political career, Tharman worked as an economist and civil servant, notably at the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He later served as the Minister for Education and Finance, and his remarkable tenure as Deputy Prime Minister extended from 2011 to 2019. His involvement with prestigious international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations, has added to his expertise.
Alongside Tharman, two other prospective candidates, businessman George Goh and investment manager Ng Kok Song, have publicly announced their intention to contest the presidential polls. To qualify for candidacy under Singapore’s Constitution, public sector candidates must have held office for at least three years in high-level positions, such as minister, chief justice, or attorney-general. Private sector candidates, on the other hand, must have served as chief executives of a company with an average of SGD 500 million in shareholders’ equity for at least three years.
This 2023 presidential election marks Singapore’s first since 2011, following President Halimah Yacob’s announcement on May 29 that she would not seek re-election. As the country’s eighth and first female president, her term will conclude on September 13 this year, setting the stage for a new leader to continue steering Singapore forward.