When asked how he would reach across the political divide as President, Mr Tharman said that his track record “speaks for itself” on how he has treated opposition party members over the years.
As for engaging “hardcore opposition supporters”, he said: “We must accept differences of views … sometimes you can’t reach them immediately.
“But we are all Singaporeans together, we are all partisan for Singapore … and that unites us.”
Mr Tharman was also asked about the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA), a body that advises the president. While the President has some constitutional powers, such as the ability to veto any inappropriate use of the reserves, he or she is expected to act in accordance with the CPA’s advice.
Should a presidential veto contradict the CPA’s recommendation, Parliament can overrule the president through a motion supported by at least two-thirds of all MPs.
Mr Tharman said the system was “designed that way”, as one of several constitutional checks and balances.
“I understand the system very well. I will work with respect to the CPA but as you know, no one in the bureaucracy or anywhere else can fool me on any matter to do with government finances.”
The presidential candidate, whose campaign slogan is “respect for all”, was also asked how the Singapore identity has evolved.
Mr Tharman said that it’s “a remarkable achievement” for Singapore to have come so far and for both the leadership and ordinary Singaporeans to get along, but the country needs to “go further”.
“We have to deepen our multiculturalism in the years to come … and it will make the Singapore identity an even greater source of strength.”