A whopping 92 per cent of 19,900 individuals responding to a poll that went viral on social media have voted for Tharman Shanmugaratnam to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and become the nation’s next head of Government.
On Fri (Mar 29), Facebook user Mark Rozells posted a poll on his Facebook page asking people to vote on who they would like to become Singapore’s next PM. Respondents could vote for one of two individuals: Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat or Deputy Prime Minister Tharman.
The poll quickly went viral on social media and garnered nearly 20,000 votes in two days. By midnight on Sun (Mar 31), 92 per cent of respondents had voted for Tharman to become Singapore’s fourth PM and had identified him as the clear “people’s choice” for PM.
The sentiments Singaporeans expressed in this latest poll match the result of The Independent’s own poll over two years ago, when we asked our readers who should be the next PM. Out of 2,316 responses, most (1882 votes) voted for Tharman to lead Singapore into the future.
A Blackbox survey commissioned by Yahoo Singapore confirmed the results of our poll. In that survey, 69 per cent of 897 respondents said they would support Tharman as a candidate to become prime minister.
Interestingly, the latest poll of nearly 20,000 individuals by Rozells comes on the heels of Heng’s recent comment that Singapore might not be ready for a non-Chinese PM.
Heng, who is positioned to succeed PM Lee, especially after his recent appointment as the ruling party’s first assistant secretary-general, made these comments as he spoke to students at a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) forum on Thurs (Mar 28).
At the forum, NTU assistant professor Walid Jumblatt Abdullah highlighted Tharman’s popularity and asked: “Is it Singapore who is not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister, or is it the PAP (the ruling People’s Action Party) who is not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister?”
Heng disputed the notion that Singapore is ready for a non-Chinese PM as he asserted that the older generation is not prepared to accept a minority PM.
Noting that many students might be happy to have a non-Chinese PM, Heng said that his “own experience in walking the ground, in working with different people from all walks of life, is that the views — if you go by age and by life experience — would be very different.”
He added: “I do think that at the right time, when enough people think that we may have a minority leader, a minority who becomes the leader of the country, that is something that we can all hope for.”
Heng also said that the government’s position is “not contradictory,” given that it reserved the 2017 Presidential Election for minority candidates whilst it holds that Singapore is not ready for a minority PM. He reasoned, curiously:
“It is precisely because we need to place this emphasis institutionally that we recognise that we have not arrived. It is important for us to ensure that we have that safeguard.”
Heng further asserted that he witnessed Singapore’s reluctance to accept a non-Chinese PM as he observed the elections: “I can tell you that it is not easy because it triggers all the feelings about race, which are not obvious. But when it comes to an election, it becomes an issue.”
Heng’s views match that of PM Lee and Lee’s father, Singapore’s founding PM Lee Kuan Yew.
In the 1980s, Lee Kuan Yew said that he had considered then-Minister for National Development, S Dhanabalan, to be the Prime Minister of Singapore, but decided that the country was not ready for an Indian head of government.
Lee Hsien Loong echoed his father’s views in 2008, shortly after Barack Obama was voted in as the first black president of the United States of America. He said:
“Will it happen soon? I don’t think so, because you have to win votes. And these sentiments – who votes for whom, and what makes him identify with that person – these are sentiments which will not disappear completely for a long time, even if people do not talk about it, even if people wish they did not feel it.”
The results of Rozells’ viral poll clearly dispute the Lees’ and Heng’s views that Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese PM.