Singapore—Suwatchai Songwanich, writing in the Bangkok Post, said that amid the results of the General Election as well as the current economic crisis Singapore faces, the biggest problem the country’s leadership has is a lack of confidence in the fourth generation of its leaders (4G).
The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) won the election with over 60 percent of votes, a result that many governments all over the world would envy. However, given the crisis that Singapore, and indeed, the entire globe is under, the expectation was that the PAP would win by a far higher margin. Instead, as Mr Songwanich notes, the ruling party had its third-worst showing in history.
The opposition, on the other hand, saw unprecedented gains, with the Workers’ Party winning in two Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) and a Single Member Constituency (SMC) with 10 Members of Parliament, while the Progress Singapore Party came very close to unseating two Ministers in yet another GRC, ending up with two members as NCMPs (Non-Constituency Members of Parliament).
This is the writer’s basis for saying that “4G is the biggest political challenge.” Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is presumed to take over as Prime Minister when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong steps down, seems to have a long way to go in winning Singaporeans’ trust and confidence.
PM Lee, who turned 68 last February, has said he will retire before he turns 70.
Mr Songwanich writes, “It was supposed to be a smooth transition, with many of the 4G leaders fronting the government response to the Covid-19 crisis. However, their poor performance in the polls could indicate a lack of confidence in their leadership. For example, Mr Heng’s team was one of the worst performers in multi-member constituencies won by the PAP, achieving a vote share of 53.4 percent, down from 60.7 percent in 2015.”
He adds that with Singapore’s dismal economic outlook, 4G leaders will have to tread even more carefully. More and more people have been dissatisfied with the country’s current growth model, reliant as it is on low-wage migrant workers.
It was announced last week that Singapore entered a recession, with its GDP diving by over 42 percent in the second quarter of this year, the largest quarterly drop on record. Singapore may be forced to re-examine its heavily trade-reliant economic model, as well as maintain a balancing act between China and the United States, the two global superpowers who have waged been waging a trade war over the past few years. According to Mr Songwanich, Singapore looks to China for trade and the US for security purposes, but he expects that maintaining this balance will only grow more difficult.
Of the 4G leadership he writes, “Clearly the new generation of politicians will have to oversee a careful balancing act, and meet the changing demands of a new generation of voters,” which will not be an easy task ahead, given that they are still working toward gaining the confidence of their countrymen. —/TISG