President-elect Tharman ‘surprised’ by margin of win, believes ‘fair number’ of non-PAP supporters voted for him

President-elect Tharman ‘surprised’ by margin of win, believes ‘fair number’ of non-PAP supporters voted for him

SINGAPORE — Surprised by his margin of victory in Friday’s Presidential Election, Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Saturday that the landslide win meant he had secured votes from a “fair number” of electors who would “normally not vote in favour of the ruling party”.

These voters had decided that this was “not a General Election” and “not a political election”, which was “very encouraging”, Tharman added.

Tharman was speaking to reporters at Toa Payoh Hub on Saturday afternoon, in his first doorstop interview with the media after being declared the winner of the election early on Saturday morning.

The former senior minister had secured a whopping 70.4 per cent of the more than 2.4 million votes cast on Friday. Meanwhile, rival candidates Ng Kok Song and Tan Kin Lian won 15.72 per cent and 13.88 per cent of electors’ votes respectively.

His visit to Toa Payoh was the final leg of his victory parade, which began on Saturday morning at Taman Jurong Hawker Centre. Tharman also made stops at Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre, and Hawker Centre @ Our Tampines Hub, where he spent time posing for photos with supporters and members of the public.

Elaborating on his views about how the election turned out, Tharman said that Singaporeans have shown “remarkable unity” and have been very “sensible in the way they voted”.

“They do not think that having been a member of a political party or even being a member of cabinet should diminish a person’s ability to be nonpartisan. It all depends on the individual, the character of the person, the reputation of the person, and the ability to reach across all the boundaries you can think of in Singapore. That’s always been my orientation”, he added.

“So I think it’s a very interesting lesson that Singaporeans do not think that my political service all these years was a disadvantage.”

Among the topics Tharman also covered on Saturday were his plans for the next two weeks before he is inaugurated as Singapore’s ninth President at the Istana on Sept 14.

Tharman said that he has not had “a lot of time to think about (his) plans in the next few weeks.”

“I’ve been focused very much on trying my very best in this election campaign and building on everything I’ve been doing before. So I haven’t thought very hard about my day-to-day schedule for the next two weeks, but I’m certainly looking forward to it.”

He added that he was also looking forward to meeting outgoing President Halimah Yacob and “getting advice from her” as she had served Singapore “remarkably well”.

“One of the first things I want to do is to sit down with her and get her thoughts and advice coming from the last six years. I’m not going to rush the process, but I’m very serious about wanting to fulfil the mandate that’s been given to me by the people,” said Tharman.

He added that he intends to be an “active President”, and will not “change (his) personality or style” of interacting with Singaporeans and residents.

The President-elect’s popularity was evident when he and his wife, Jane Ottogi, arrived at Toa Payoh Hub on Saturday afternoon.

They were met with the same exuberant cheers from crowds that had gathered in Taman Jurong, Marsiling and Tampines earlier in the day.

Supporters and members of the public at Toa Payoh Hub quickly closed in on the couple, forming queues to pose for photos with them.

After spending some time interacting with the public, Tharman and Ottogi were guided to an open-air courtyard for the doorstop interview.

A member of the public — who was situated on the second floor, overlooking the location — broke out into a cheer of “ong lai!”, which was met with boisterous exclamations of “huat ah!” in response.

“Ong lai”, which means pineapple in Hokkien, is the symbol Tharman used in his campaign. The crowds chanted the cheer thrice.

Also cheering in the crowd at Toa Payoh Hub on Saturday was Terence Yeo, who told TODAY that he and his family were huge supporters of Tharman.

The 27-year-old lawyer said they saw in the news that Tharman would be heading to Toa Payoh Hub after his visits to Our Tampines Hub and Marsiling earlier in the day. The family had specially made their way to Toa Payoh, despite not living in the neighbourhood.

They also took pictures to show his sister, who was abroad on a school exchange programme, as she was a “huge Tharman fan” and was disappointed that she could not vote this year.

“(I’m) very excited that a significant majority of Singaporeans, from different generations, are able to see past issues of race to choose who they consider to be the best man for the job,” said Yeo.

“Given his strong international standing and track record in public service, we believe that there’s really no one better than him to be the custodian of our reserves, and to be a sound check and balance.”

“In these times of instability, he will be a safe pair of hands, (one that is) well-respected internationally,” he added.

Edwin Lee, 70, and Lily Lim, 58, who spoke to TODAY at Toa Payoh Hub shortly after Tharman left, said they lived in the vicinity, but had happened to be at Jurong earlier on Saturday.

The married couple, who are supporters of Tharman, said they had rushed back to Toa Payoh when they caught wind of Tharman making his rounds in the neighbourhood.

The pair added that they were not surprised by the election’s result, and were “looking forward” to welcoming Tharman as Singapore’s next President.