Historian Michael Barr talked about the possibility of both Lee Hsien Yang and Li Hongyi contesting the next General Election (GE) and discussed what the outcome might be if both men directly faced each other in an electoral fight, in a recent interview.
Prof Barr, who serves as an Associate Professor teaching International Relations at Adelaide’s Flinders University, has written and commented extensively on Singapore politics and history. He has published several books on Singapore’s ruling elite and continues to take a keen interest in Singapore politics.
Speaking to Yahoo Singapore on the Singapore opposition’s preparations for the next GE, Prof Barr speculated about what might happen if Lee Hsien Yang and Li Hongyi contested the next election and faced each other.
Prof Barr said: “If he [Lee Hsien Yang] found himself standing in the same constituency as Li Hongyi, it would be a devastating blow for Hongyi’s credibility…
“Hsien Yang’s presence would make it impossible for everyone to overlook everything that Hsien Yang and Wei Ling have been saying about Lee Hsien Loong’s longer term ambitions for his son.”
Lee Hsien Yang is the youngest son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and younger brother of current PM Lee Hsien Loong. There is speculation that he might join the opposition after he publicly backed the Progress Singapore Party and touted its leader Tan Cheng Bock as “the leader Singapore deserves.”
In 2017, Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling publicly accused their elder brother of using organs of the state against them and alleged that PM Lee Hsien Loong was abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in order to bolster his grip on power.
Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling added that Lee Hsien Loong is grooming his son, Li Hongyi, for politics. Hongyi responded to the allegations and claimed that he really has no interest in politics.
Lee Hsien Yang’s eldest son and Hongyi’s cousin, Li Shengwu, later noted that Hongyi’s comments on a potential entry into Singapore politics is “vague” as he told the press: “He only said he has no interest in politics, but my uncle Lee Hsien Loong also once said he wasn’t interested in politics when he was in his 20s. These words can easily be taken back.”
There is speculation that certain ruling party members have been appointed to mentor Hongyi as a potential elections candidate.
Respected international publication, the Nikkei Asian Review, has also said that Heng Swee Keat is expected to mentor Li Hongyi to be Singapore’s potential fifth-generation Prime Minister, just like how second-gen PM Goh Chok Tong mentored current PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Goh succeeded founding PM Lee Kuan Yew and has been seen as a “seatwarmer” PM since he paved the way for Lee Kuan Yew’s son Lee Hsien Loong to take office.
The Nikkei Asian Review article asserted that the recent appointment of Heng Swee Keat as the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general – which is seen as confirmation that he will become the next PM – “promises no break” from the PAP’s usual pattern.
Noting that Heng’s “background signals policy continuity,” the article said that this “makes him a safe pair of hands” and that he can do for Li Hongyi what Goh Chok Tong did for Lee Hsien Loong.