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Eyes on next generation as Singapore succession is thrown into question By Reuters

By Aradhana Aravindan and Chen Lin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore’s sometimes staid politics has been unsettled by an announcement from the chosen successor for prime minister that he was taking himself out of the working, renewing questions over the city-state’s management planning.

Stability has lengthy been considered one of rich Singapore’s best strengths, making it a haven for buyers and companies in a area the place political upheaval is not unusual.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, whose promotion to deputy prime minister in 2019 put him first in line for the highest job, stated on Thursday he wished to make approach for somebody youthful as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic meant he can be too outdated to take over by the point the disaster had settled.

“The lack of clarity can be challenging for it may indicate uncertainty and potential instability in future,” stated Eugene Tan, a former nominated member of parliament.

The pandemic has pushed Singapore, which thrives on open commerce and finance, into its worst recession although it has managed to nearly remove the virus with border controls and contact-tracing.

The nation was already dealing with issues of an getting old inhabitants, rising protectionism and the necessity to reshape the financial system to focus on know-how.

“As the Singapore model itself faces pressures for change, so does its politics,” stated Bridget Welsh, honorary analysis affiliate on the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute Malaysia.

A youthful workforce from the “fourth generation” of leaders since independence in 1965, or 4G, has to decide on a alternative for Heng and provides that particular person sufficient time to arrange. Heng, who turns 60 this yr, had led the workforce since 2018.

Chan Chun Sing, commerce and trade minister, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung and Lawrence Wong, the training minister and co-head of a virus-fighting taskforce, are seen as sturdy contenders for the job, analysts say.

“Succession remains an urgent task and cannot be put off indefinitely,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 69, stated after Heng’s announcement.

Lee stated he hoped a brand new chief can be recognized earlier than the next normal election, due by the tip of 2025.

Lee, who had beforehand dropped a plan to retire by 70 to see Singapore by way of the pandemic, will stay till a successor is chosen.

“I have no intention of staying on longer than necessary,” stated Lee, who has twice survived most cancers.


Lee’s People’s Action Party (PAP) has dominated since independence. Singapore has solely had three prime ministers, together with Lee’s father and founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee Kuan Yew’s successor, Goh Chok Tong, was recognized 5 years earlier than he took over. The youthful Lee was groomed for the highest workplace lengthy earlier than he took over in 2004.

The course of of choosing leaders inside the PAP is opaque however which may be altering.

“If there is a lesson to be learnt from the past processes, though, it may be that greater account needs to be taken of what voters’ views are,” stated Garry Rodan, honorary professor of political science on the University of Queensland.

In a normal election final yr, the PAP recorded its worst-ever consequence, with Heng himself scraping by way of with solely 53% of votes in his constituency.

Analysts stated the consequence forged a pall over Lee’s hope to safe a mandate for the next generation and raised questions over whether or not there was a long-term decline in PAP assist.

Still, the PAP holds an amazing majority in parliament. Experts don’t see a lot danger of Singapore heading into a political disaster or management change bringing any main shifts in coverage.

But with no apparent 4G chief, the method of discovering a brand new one may itself carry hazard for the social gathering.

“The PAP risks looking weak as the leadership transition gets delayed,” Inderjit Singh, a former PAP lawmaker advised Reuters in emailed feedback.

“I hope the 4G leaders realise that the future of the PAP is at risk should they not show strong unity.”

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