STRONG VOTE SHARE REFLECTS THARMAN’S POPULARITY
Dr Woo said Mr Tharman’s strong vote share “reflects not just his public popularity but voters’ trust in his ability to carry out his duties as President”.
This comes from his experience as Deputy Prime Minister from 2011 to 2019, as well as his time as Finance Minister from 2007 to 2015, which gave him top-level policy experience, Dr Woo added.
NTU’s Dr Tan highlighted Mr Tharman’s consistent campaigning strategy, and that he didn’t “react” to what other candidates may have said.
“He stuck to his slogan, which is ‘respect for all’. And that was the most important, because at the end of the day, it’s about consistency. It’s about what you believe and it’s about who you are,” he said.
“And I think, the Presidential (Election) boils down to character and integrity … Mr Tharman has shown it.”
While the “huge margin of victory reflects how Singaporeans feel about Tharman”, Dr Tan said “this does not always mean that the President has to be antagonistic with the government … especially when the President has numerous constraints”.
“However, having such a strong legitimacy would also give Tharman a much stronger mandate to question the government if necessary. After all, the government did not even come close to the vote share that Tharman received,” he added.
SMU’s Assoc Prof Tan said voters had put aside their differences to usher Mr Tharman to the Istana, adding: “This is popularity across the island. One would say he pulled votes from across the entire political spectrum, notwithstanding that this is not a political contest.”
Assoc Prof Tan also noted that Singapore is undergoing a leadership change at a political level. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said he is preparing to hand over to the fourth-generation (4G) team, led by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.
“Someone like Mr Tharman, with his stature, his international standing, and with that solid backing of Singaporeans, will be able to help Singapore (in a) very positive (way into the) future,” Assoc Prof Tan said.
At the same time, Mr Tharman’s personality, track record and campaign messaging were supplemented by the “huge swing to him in the middle ground”, said Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, senior international affairs analyst at Solaris Strategies Singapore.
This swing was due to the polarising contest that arose when various opposition figures expressed support for fellow candidate Mr Tan, he suggested.
Mr Tan received support from People’s Voice’s Lim Tean, People’s Power Party’s Goh Meng Seng, chairman of Progress Singapore Party Dr Tan Cheng Bock, as well as Singapore Democratic Party’s Mr Tan Jee Say. Dr Tan said he was supporting Mr Tan Kin Lian in a “personal capacity”.
“It had a positive spillover on Tharman. It jolted the middle ground to err on the side of caution, and vote pragmatically and rationally in this election. And therefore, vote for the person based on two factors: Relatability and familiarity,” added Dr Mustafa.