Most Singaporeans would choose Tharman as the next Prime Minister: survey

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at a press conference about the Bukit Batok by-election. Photo: Bryan Huang

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is the clear favourite of Singaporeans to succeed Lee Hsien Loong as Singapore’s next Prime Minister, a survey conducted by market research consultancy Blackbox shows.

According to the poll commissioned by Yahoo Singapore, 69 per cent of all 897 respondents said they would support Tharman as a candidate to be prime minister.

The 59-year-old led three other men who emerged as possible contenders: fellow DPM Teo Chee Hean (34 per cent), Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (25 per cent) and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing (24 per cent).

Of the other possible candidates named in the poll, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin garnered 16 per cent of the vote. National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Acting Education Ministers Ong Ye Kung and Ng Chee Meng, all got less than 10 per cent.

Clockwise from top left: Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Teo Chee Hean, Heng Swee Keat, Chan Chun Sing,Ng Chee Meng, Ong Ye Kung, Lawrence Wong and Tan Chuan-Jin. Photo: Yahoo Newsroom, Facebook

Respondents were allowed to choose more than one contender for the job.

Heng, Chan, Tan, Wong, Ong and Ng were all recently named by national broadsheet The Straits Times as possible candidates for the top job.

The topic of leadership succession took on new urgency when Lee suffered a fainting spell during his live National Day Rally speech on 21 August. The 64-year-old has had several health scares over the years, including a bout with prostate cancer in 2015 and lymphoma in the early 1990s.

During his rally speech, Lee had said that building up the leadership and preparing for succession was his “top priority”.

“Nothing that has happened has changed my timetable, or my resolve to press on with succession…Soon after the next GE, my successor must be ready to take over from me,” said Lee.

The first choice

Photo: Blackbox

Tharman was also named by 55 per cent of respondents as their first choice to be prime minister, far ahead of the next nearest contender, Teo (17 per cent). Chan and Heng were each favoured by 9 per cent of respondents, while Tan got 6 per cent of the vote.

Respondents could only pick one contender as their top choice for Prime Minister. 

Tharman was favoured across different age groups and ethnicities, as well as socio-economic status, according to the survey of 897 Singaporeans.

Chinese respondents did express slightly stronger support for Heng and Chan, as compared to Malays and Indians. However, all seemed to agree that Tharman is the best choice among the lot. More than half of all Chinese and Malay respondents chose him as their preferred candidate, while eight in 10 Indian respondents would like to see Tharman as the next Prime Minister. 

Tharman, who first entered politics in 2001, has served in various capacities in government. In addition to his political appointments, he is currently chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He also previously helmed the Finance, Education and Manpower ministries. 

From 2011-15, Tharman was the first Asian to lead the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the policy-steering committee of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

About the Blackbox survey

Photo: Blackbox

The Blackbox online survey was commissioned by Yahoo Singapore earlier this month. It revealed that the topic of leadership succession is closely followed by Singaporeans, with seven in 10 respondents having recently heard or read news about the topic.