Beyond 70? It’s putting the brakes on leadership renewal


By Augustine Low

Lee Kuan Yew stepped down as Prime Minister at 67. Goh Chok Tong stepped down at 63 and for 14 years now, he has been a senior member of the cabinet.

So when PM Lee Hsien Loong set a target more than 10 years ago of leaving office by age 70, it made perfect sense. Like his predecessors, it would be in the name of leadership renewal.

But suddenly, with the delay in the annointing of a PM-designate, some of the talk has shifted from who the next PM will be to whether PM Lee will indeed step down at 70.

In a recent Straits Times commentary, it was argued that staying on beyond 70 should not be a problem for PM Lee because leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill were in office well into their seventies. Yes, and we might add that Dr Mahathir Mohamad, at 92, is still fighting elections and bidding to be PM of Malaysia once again.

But health and fitness for office is not the issue here. Most certainly, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong could have carried on but they chose to make way. As PM Lee himself put it in 2012: “. . . Singapore needs a prime minister who is younger, who’s got that energy, and who is in tune with that very much younger and very much different generation.”

Globally the trend is towards younger, not older leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron is only 40. New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is 37.  Ireland’s leader Leo Varadkar is 38. And amazingly, the leader of Austria, Sebastian Kurz is a youthful 31.

Not forgetting that Barack Obama was only 55 after completing two terms as US President, while British PM David Cameron was 49 when he left office.

Singaporeans are not clamouring for PM Lee to hand over the baton but for as long as we can remember, we have been told that leadership renewal is the cornerstone of the country’s continued success.

Already there has been a whiff of a riff between PM Lee and Goh Chok Tong on the succession issue. Throw into the mix rampant talk of PM Lee having one preferred candidate and the 4G cohort having another, and the waters get murkier. What used to be smooth sailing has now become a bone of contention.

In China, there are also rumblings about leadership renewal. Political watchers have found it ominous that President Xi Jinping has yet to annoint a potential successor. They see it as a sign that he intends to break away from the Chinese Community Party’s 10-year mandate for the Paramount Leader, that he wants to carry on for more years than his predecessors.

Is it a case of no one capable enough to be successor, or a case of personal agenda taking hold?



    • There is no such thing as absolute power in Singapore.

      There is in North Korea, another very young leader who took over at age 26 niah, and was not mentioned in the above article. And there is also absolute power in China for as long as the current Chairman is the Chairman, and in this case, it’s Xi Jinping.

      Even LKY had been taken to court and was grilled by none other than Dr Chee who did not want to use a lawyer, so he did the lawyering himself.

      PM Lee, yes, he was in court as well.

      So, nobody in Singapore is above the law and if he has committed a crime, that’s it. He has to face the legal conequences.

      And if he is incompetent, then he will be booted out in the GE. Singapore is not North Korea or China where there is nothing the people can do about it even if they don’t like their leader, while they can only pray hard that their leader is capable and good to them.

        • I refer to post from “Why are so many people posting as Anonymous here?”

          Who are you ? Please identify yourself..

          Who are you to silence people from speaking up?

          President Suharto , 2nd President of Indonesia is always right to say
          “Suatu bangsa tanpa pahlawan sama dengan kulkas tanpa isi, sepeser pun tiada arti’”

    • You are thinking of Taiwan and what happened to Chen Shui Bian?

      Be careful what you write here when you are suggesting that PM Lee has something to hide which is why he is fearful. Do not think that by posting as Anonymous, you cannot be tracked down to your HDB flat!

  1. Chan Chun sing is getting ready to catch the baton, as he is in the Prime Minister office since LKY’s era
    There will be great changes this year, especially the impossible will become possible!
    In GE2019, more GRC will be lost to SDP and WP as this year, the citizen tree is blooming 鉄樹開花了!不可能的事很快实現,神迹滿天下!新加坡的老百姓喜气洋洋!

    • I pray that the whole of WP die soon. So, time for them to sheet off?

      What citizens are you talking about man? 70% of the citizens (those who can vote) voted for PAP. Suck it up man!

  2. A man who has stopped listening to the people… And yet listens to ONLY his own people.. Stopped reading the news and getting a feel for what’s happening on the ground. Truth be told, i honestly think that he started out all those years ago wanting to be the best he could be.. And lead the country into the new millennia. However, there comes a time, when you get found out. You realise you are limited, have been measured and have come up short.
    The time to go has come.. Go he must.. And let spode find her own way.. With her citizens.

  3. Look the problem is all the ex pms were basically parasitical hanger ons. They never disappeared from politics which is the real measure of a politician. Once you get;stay put and enjoy the free time.