Tharman & His Team Were Smart For Choosing The Pineapple As A Symbol
When the 2023 Singapore Presidential Election (PE2023) candidates introduced their symbols, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s symbol befuddled many — a pineapple — with no frills or allusions to national ideals.
But this very simple icon went on to earn him a huge voter base and even surfaced multiple times at doorstops throughout his campaign.
Despite its apparent plainness, the pineapple somehow managed to resonate with huge portions of the public, so much so that over 70% of voters elected Mr Tharman for President.
Here’s why the tropical fruit was actually a genius idea for a symbol.
Symbol of good fortune especially among older generation
In the early days of PE2023, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported that Mr Tharman and his team had considered the durian as a symbol too.
While the then-candidate didn’t explain why they rejected the option, he claimed that they took less than 10 seconds to decide on the pineapple.
This was after consulting “quite a large group of people of different age groups”. Ultimately, Mr Tharman reasoned that the fruit was “easy to understand” and “just likeable”.
Closer to home, at least for the older generation, pineapple is “ong lai” in Hokkien, which translates to the arrival of prosperity.
Mr Tharman himself cited the symbolism of the fruit in traditional practices when moving into a new home or starting a new business, where the act of rolling a pineapple signals good things to come.
So by extension, for those who hold on to such beliefs, perhaps voting for the symbol will beckon a more prosperous future for Singapore.
Pineapple symbol is easy to interpret
Besides its deeply rooted meaning, Mr Tharman may have been right in identifying the pineapple as a symbol that’s “easy to understand”.
Put it side-by-side with the other candidates’ symbols and it immediately stands out for its basic appearance.
While one may have to decipher what Mr Tan Kin Lian and Mr Ng Kok Song’s symbols mean, Mr Tharman’s leaves no room for interpretation.
As he emphasised throughout his campaign, “What you see is what you get“.
Indeed, the former Senior Minister had no qualms about his political past, embracing it as his strength every time naysayers raised it as a contentious point.
Mr Tharman made it clear that he had nothing to hide, and that Singaporeans already know him well from all his years serving the country as a political leader.
Like the pineapple, there’s nothing superfluous to Mr Tharman. And in a world where less is proving to be more, it’s no surprise why the symbol and candidate triumphed.
A symbol that’s accessible to all
In garnering support from the layperson, you’d want to connect with them on a fundamental level. That’s what Mr Tharman and his team managed to do with the pineapple.
Meanings and symbolisms aside, the fruit is also something an average Singaporean can get hold of. This likely explains why avid supporters were often seen handing the now-president a whole pineapple at his campaign walkabouts.
Rather than receiving campaign merchandise, the action is reversed, with supporters handing the candidate his own symbol.
The probably unintentional but effective play in power dynamics humbles Mr Tharman in the public eye. Instead of a leader in the upper echelons of society, he’s also the people’s president, who accepts modest gifts from citizens.
Meanwhile, for the other candidates, supporters may have had a harder time thinking of symbolic gifts.
Genius decision by Tharman & his team
While some may argue that Mr Tharman’s symbol seemed too simplistic, we can agree that it served him well.
Singaporeans of all ages resonated with it, and it united people of all backgrounds and that’s exactly what a president should do.
Here’s hoping that Mr Tharman will live up to Singaporeans’ expectations and lead the country well.
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Featured image by MS News. Photography by Iskandar Rossali and Iqmall Hayat.
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