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Tharman Shanmugaratnam aims to be a unifying figure if elected as Singapore President

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam officially declared his intention to run for the presidency of Singapore on Thursday (8 Jun). This announcement followed President Halimah Yacob’s decision not to stand for re-election.

In a press conference, Mr Tharman revealed his belief that the time is now right for him to serve as a “unifying figure”, dedicated to preserving the integrity of the Singaporean system and strengthening the country’s social compact.

“I feel the time is now right for me to serve in this role and keep the Singapore system strong, keep our social compact strong by being the unifying figure and ensuring that the integrity of the system is here to last,” he stated.

Earlier, Mr Tharman had informed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of his plans to retire from politics and resign from all his positions in government, including his membership in the People’s Action Party. His resignation is expected to take effect on 7 July.

Mr Tharman will also step down from his other responsibilities, which include his roles as chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, deputy chairman of GIC, and chairman of the Economic Development Board’s International Advisory Council.

“I’ve been thinking about it for some months. I wanted to wait to see whether President Halimah was going to stand again, but people have been talking to me for some time,” Mr Tharman shared, dispelling the notion that his decision to run for the presidency was rushed.

Articulating his priorities if elected, Mr Tharman envisions himself as a unifying force across race, religion, social backgrounds, political beliefs, and as playing a significant role internationally as a head of state.

Addressing the potential challenge of being from a minority race, Mr Tharman underscored his visibility to Singaporeans, having served in various ministerial roles, and highlighted the strong support he enjoys from “all segments of the community”.

“I put myself forward to serve to the best of my ability using all my experience in economics, finance, and international affairs, as well as the standing I have internationally,” he declared, expressing humility about his chances of winning the election.

“I’ve never made assumptions in all the elections I’ve taken part in. This is different because it’s not a political contest, unlike general elections… This is about choosing the right person,” he said.

In an international context, Mr Tharman foresees a more uncertain environment, and emphasizes the need for Singapore to hold its own.

“We’ve got to hold our own as Singapore – a very small country with a strong reputation built up over the years – but we’ve got to hold our own, so that the population holds together, we can still do well as Singaporeans, and feel good about being Singaporeans,” he said.

Locally, he perceives Singapore as maturing, with more varied views and preferences among the electorate.

In response to queries about his shift from ruling out a role as Prime Minister to running for the presidency, Mr Tharman drew an analogy from his experiences as a sportsman. Likening his position to that of a defensive player in football, he expressed his preference for safeguarding and strategizing rather than scoring goals.

Mr Tharman confirmed that Mr Shawn Huang will take over his Meet-the-People sessions, while his duties of meeting residents will be divided among the other MPs.

The upcoming presidential election has to be called by the end of President Halimah Yacob’s term on 13 September.

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