June 9, 2023
SINGAPORE – Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be running for president in the upcoming election, stepping aside from politics after 22 years.
“I wish to inform you that I have decided to put myself forward as a candidate in the forthcoming presidential election. I hence wish to retire from politics and all my positions in Government,” he said in a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday. PM Lee is also secretary-general of the People’s Action Party (PAP).
Mr Tharman said he plans to resign from the PAP and step down from his posts as senior minister and coordinating minister for social policies on July 7 – a month from Thursday.
This is so that he can first fulfil his immediate commitments in Singapore and internationally, and ensure that arrangements are fully in place for his constituents in Jurong GRC to be well served for the rest of the electoral term, he said.
In a reply letter, PM Lee accepted his resignation and thanked him for his “distinguished service to Singapore”.
“Your departure from the Cabinet and the Party will be a heavy loss to me and my team. We will miss your leadership, insightful views, and wise counsel,” said PM Lee.
“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,” he added.
Mr Tharman will also step down as chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), deputy chairman of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, chairman of the Economic Development Board’s International Advisory Council and other responsibilities he has been undertaking in his ministerial capacity.
“I have been humbled by the requests I have received in recent months, from Singaporeans from different walks of life, to stand in the presidential election if President Halimah chose not to stand again,” he said.
He added that it had been a difficult decision, and that he consulted his family and gave careful thought to how he could best serve the country in the years ahead.
“I believe that I can now best serve Singapore not in politics, but in a different role that has to be above politics,” he said.
“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.”
He added that he would be thorough and impartial in fulfilling the constitutional duties of the president with regard to the prudent use of the nation’s reserves and the key appointments that preserve the integrity of the Singapore system, and do his best to project Singapore’s interests and voice of reason in an increasingly turbulent world.
Mr Tharman also thanked PM Lee for his leadership, advice and openness to collegial debate through the years.
PM Lee said that should Mr Tharman be elected as the next president, he was confident that Mr Tharman would “carry out these duties scrupulously” and with “the independence of mind” he has always displayed.
Mr Tharman’s announcement comes after incumbent President Halimah Yacob said on May 29 that she would not be running for a second term. The election has to be called before the end of Madam Halimah’s six-year term, which expires on Sept 13.
Mr Tharman, 66, is the first candidate to throw his hat in the ring as no other presidential hopeful has made his intentions public.
He satisfies the public service requirement for eligibility under the law, due to his ministerial posts.
Under the public sector service requirements laid down in the Constitution, presidential candidates must have held office – for at least three years – as a minister, chief justice, Speaker of Parliament, attorney-general, Public Service Commission chairman, auditor-general, accountant-general or permanent secretary, among others.
Mr Tharman was first elected to Parliament in November 2001 in Jurong GRC, and has been re-elected four times since.
His current posts include Senior Minister since 2019, Coordinating Minister for Social Policies since 2015, and MAS chairman since 2011.
He has been deputy chairman of GIC since 2019, and chairs its Investment Strategies Committee.
His previously held portfolios include deputy prime minister, finance minister and education minister.
Before stepping into politics, he spent most of his professional career at MAS.
On the international stage, Mr Tharman has been chairman of the Group of Thirty, an independent global council of leading economic and financial policymakers, since January 2017.
Since April 2017, he has also been chairing the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, to review the system of multilateral financial institutions.
Mr Tharman’s decision to stand raises questions about who will take over his current posts and cover for him in his constituency.
He is the anchor minister of Jurong GRC, which is also represented by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Law Rahayu Mahzam, Dr Tan Wu Meng, Mr Xie Yao Quan and Mr Shawn Huang.
There is no requirement under the law to call a by-election if an MP resigns, even if that member is a minority.
In 2017, when Madam Halimah made her plans known that she would be stepping down as MP of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, she said she would ask PM Lee to assign another MP to her constituency to help out.