Tharman Shanmugaratnam, former Singapore deputy prime minister, has been elected to the ceremonial post of president, according to official results, in an election seen as a barometer of public sentiment towards the ruling party amid economic challenges.

The Elections Department on Friday declared the 66-year-old economist as the winner over two rival candidates after securing 70.4 percent of votes.

“I declare Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam as the candidate duly elected as the president of Singapore,” said election returning officer Tan Meng Dui.

Shanmugaratnam, a longtime leader of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), resigned from the government and the party ahead of the first contested presidential election in more than a decade.

“I believe that it’s a vote of confidence in Singapore. It’s a vote of optimism for a future in which we can progress together,” Shanmugaratnam said in a speech before the results were announced.

While the presidency is a largely ceremonial, nonpartisan post under the constitution, political lines were already drawn ahead of Friday’s election to replace incumbent Halimah Yacob, who ran unopposed for her six-year term in 2017.

The city-state’s government is run by the prime minister, currently Lee Hsien Loong of the PAP, a party that has ruled Singapore continuously since 1959.

Analysts said the landslide victory for the candidate seen as closest to the establishment is a sign that Singaporeans generally still trust the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

“It shows that the PAP is still a trusted brand, as long as the candidate that is put forth is credible. Tharman is as credible as it gets,” said political scientist Walid Jumblatt Abdullah of Nanyang Technological University.

(Courtesy ALJAEERA)