Singapore | Sat, September 2, 2023

A former member of Singapore’s ruling party on Saturday scored a landslide victory to become the city-state’s president, in an election seen as a barometer of public sentiment amid economic challenges and high-profile scandals.

According to the elections office, 66-year-old former deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam received 70.4% of the vote to become Singapore’s new leader. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is the head of state in this parliamentary democracy.

Analysts opined that the overwhelming victory for the candidate viewed as being closest to the status quo indicates that most Singaporeans still have faith in the People’s Action Party (PAP), which is currently in power. As long as the candidate is respectable, it demonstrates that the PAP is still a reputable brand.

According to political scientist Walid Jumblatt Abdullah of Nanyang Technological University, Tharman is as credible as they come. Tharman is a well-liked politician who has won multiple parliamentary elections, including the general election in 2020 with the largest margin of votes while a PAP member.

He declared his independence while running for president and left the party early this year. Singapore, usually a bastion of stable and corruption-free politics, has recently been shaken by a number of high-profile scandals, which has angered voters who are already weary of the country’s excessive cost of living.

In the tiny city-state of 5.6 million people, news of a rare corruption investigation involving a cabinet minister, the resignations of two politicians from the ruling party, including the speaker of the house, and public anger over ministers renting opulent state-owned residences have made headlines.

Although the president is supposed to maintain checks and balances on the government, the president’s job is mostly ceremonial in Singapore. The President has the right to veto any budget or specific transaction that is likely to deplete the nation’s sizable but secret reserves, however they must first consult the Council of Presidential Advisers.

In addition, the president has the power to veto the appointment or dismissal of important public employees and to order the anti-graft bureau to look into matters even in the absence of the prime minister’s approval. Tharman will serve as Singapore’s ninth president overall after the third presidential election since a 1991 act granted the public the right to vote.

In a statement, PM Lee said he had called Tharman to congratulate him. “I guarantee him the full support of my government. Additionally, Mr. Tharman has stated his desire to collaborate closely with the government,” the speaker said.

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