In a rather blunt article, British publication The Economist commented that “Singaporeans are in the dark about their next prime minister…Not that their views count for much.”
While the article, entitled “Not much leeway,” was first published in the paper’s print edition in late April this year, the Government has still not given a clear indication as to who will succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Interest in PM Lee’s successor heated up when the PM repeatedly announced in recent years that he would step down some time after the next general election, which must be held by 15 Jan 2021. Minister for Trade & Industry Chan Chun Sing, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung remain the top three frontrunners tipped to succeed PM Lee.
Many, including Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, have expressed hopes that the Government will give a clear indication as to who will become the next head of government soon. PM Lee, however, has repeatedly said that the selection of his successor will take time. The most recent Cabinet reshuffle also mostly failed to shed any light on who the next PM will be, even though several fourth-generation leaders received more responsibilities.
Calling PM Lee a “pillar of stability” and opining that the Lee “will almost certainly win the next election,” The Economist identified Chan, Heng and Ong as the top three contenders for the top spot. It proceeded to comment that “public opinion is unlikely to play much part in the decision.”
Noting that the government is “further crimping freedom of speech in a country not exactly known for it,” the publication pointed to the new law where the police can ban the dissemination of videos and pictures of certain incidents, the plans to install facial-recognition software on more than 100,000 lampposts and the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods as measures that will help the government “be well defended against unruly critics” no matter who takes over from PM Lee.