Indian-origin Tharman Shanmugaratnam sworn in as Singapore’s new President

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Indian-origin Singapore-born economist Tharman Shanmugaratnam was inaugurated as Singapore’s ninth president on September 14. The 66-year-old will serve a six-year term, succeeding President Halimah Yacob, whose term concluded on September 13. Shanmugaratnam received significant support, winning 70.4% of the vote in a presidential election that had the spotlight on Singapore’s political landscape.

Lifetime of Public Service and Career Milestones

Tharman Shanmugaratnam has been a lifelong public servant in Singapore. He served as a senior minister from 2019 to 2023 and as the coordinating minister for social policies between 2015 and 2023. Additionally, he chaired the Monetary Authority of Singapore from 2011 until 2023 and was Singapore’s deputy prime minister between May 2011 and May 2019. This makes him the third Indian-origin president in Singapore’s history.

Indian-origin economist Tharman Shanmugaratnam becomes Singapore President, succeeds Halimah Yacob

Indian-origin economist Tharman Shanmugaratnam becomes Singapore President, succeeds Halimah Yacob. Photo courtesy of Government of Singapore.

Recent Election Indicates Ruling Party Support

The election, which was closely observed due to a rare series of political scandals in Singapore, was seen as an endorsement for the ruling party. Tharman Shanmugaratnam won decisively with over two-thirds of the vote, defeating two rivals including Ng Kok Song, former chief investment officer of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GTC, who managed only 15.7% of the vote.

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“I believe that it’s a vote of confidence in Singapore. It’s a vote of optimism for a future in which we can progress together and support each other as Singaporeans,” said Shanmugaratnam before the election results.

“I’m humbled by this vote. It is not just a vote for me, it is a vote for Singapore’s future,” he added.

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Presidency in Singapore: Requirements and Responsibilities

The Singaporean president has specific responsibilities that include overseeing the city’s financial reserves and having the power to veto certain measures and approve anti-corruption investigations. The position is non-partisan under Singapore’s constitution, although political lines were visible leading up to the election to replace Halimah Yacob.

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Background on Singapore’s Political Landscape

The People’s Action Party (PAP), currently headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has been in power in Singapore since 1959. Tharman Shanmugaratnam was widely considered a favorite to win the presidential post and had resigned from the PAP and his role as a senior minister in the cabinet to meet the requirement for presidential candidates to be independent.

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