SINGAPORE — Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has announced his resignation from the People’s Action Party (PAP) in order to participate in the upcoming 2023 Presidential Election.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (8 June), Tharman said that he will be running for president and intends to step down as Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies from 7 July 2023.
“I plan to do so a month from now, on Jul 7, 2023, so that I can first fulfil my immediate official commitments in Singapore and internationally, and ensure that arrangements are fully in place for constituents of Jurong GRC to be well-served for the rest of the electoral term,” Mr Tharman wrote in the letter.
He will also stepping down as chairman of Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and deputy chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).
“It has been a difficult decision. I have consulted my family, and given careful thought to how I can best serve the country in the years ahead.”
“However, my greatest privilege has been to serve in politics over the last 22 years. As Member of Parliament (MP), helping residents overcome difficulties and fulfil their aspirations. ”
“In my ministerial responsibilities in Government as we made major shifts to build a more inclusive society and restructure the economy. In advancing Singapore’s standing through my leadership of various international councils.”
Tharman further emphasized that the current period is marked by transition, both within Singapore and on the global stage. He acknowledged the commendable progress of the ‘4G’ team led by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who have demonstrated effective leadership by actively engaging with the public and reevaluating strategies for the future.
“They will have to tackle new global crises that will surely emerge, work closely with Singaporeans to retain trust in a changing domestic environment, and ensure Singapore’s appeal and relevance in a more divided world.”
“Represent the unity of Singaporeans” if elected as President
“I believe that I can now best serve Singapore not in politics, but in a different role that has to be above politics. If I am fortunate enough to be elected as President, I will represent the unity of Singaporeans, of all races and religions, social backgrounds, and political leanings, at a time when views in the population are becoming more diverse.”
“My role vis-à-vis the Government will change fundamentally if I am elected President. What will never change is my conviction in the continuing Singapore story: a society where everyone has the support to uplift themselves regardless of their starting point in life, and a multiracial nation whose citizens take pride in its unique identity and feel a deepening sense of togetherness.”
PM Lee’s reply
In response to Mr Tharman’s letter, PM Lee said he and Tharman have worked closely in many roles for the last 27 years, and his departure from the Cabinet and the Party will be a “heavy loss” to him and his team.
“We will miss your leadership, insightful views, and wise counsel. But I understand why you have decided to make this move and run for President. It is in keeping with the spirit of public service and sense of duty that you have shown all these years.”
“Should you be elected as our next President, I fully appreciate that you will now be in a different role with different responsibilities. You will no longer be a member of the executive; instead, you will be exercising your custodial powers independently to protect our past reserves and the integrity of the public service as specified in the Constitution. ”
“This is a vital function in the Singapore system of government. I am confident that you will carry out these duties scrupulously and with the independence of mind you have always displayed.”
Upcoming presidential election must be called by 13 September
Singapore President Halimah Yacob, had earlier announced her decision not to stand for re-election in the upcoming Presidential Election after careful deliberation.
The upcoming presidential election, which is open to candidates of all races, must be called by 13 September, with incumbent Mdm Halimah’s six-year term expiring on that day.
66-year-old Mr Tharman has been Senior Minister since May 2019, after serving for several years as Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Education Minister. He is currently also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, and advises the Prime Minister on economic policies.
Mr Tharman was first elected Member of Parliament in Nov 2001 in Jurong GRC, and has been re-elected four times since.
Led Jurong GRC since 2001
Concurrently, Mr Tharman is Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). In addition to his responsibilities in the Government, he is Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and chairs its Investment Strategies Committee.
Mr Tharman has spent his working life in public service. Besides serving as Deputy Prime Minister (2011-2019), he was Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies (2011-2015).
He was also Minister for Finance for nine years (2007-2015) and Minister for Education for five years (2003-2008).
He spent most of his earlier professional career at the MAS, Singapore’s central bank and financial regulator, where he later served as Chairman from 2011 onward.
Mr Tharman’s potential candidacy does carry some political controversy. In 2019, the PAP faced significant public outcry when they pushed for a minority Presidential Election, which resulted in a walkover election for Mdm Halimah Yacob.
Should Mr Tharman win against a non-PAP candidate, it may suggest the minority candidacy was unnecessary, raising questions about the previous election.