Singapore — Whoever is chosen to be the next Prime Minister, this won’t make much difference in Singapore’s development plans because Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is likely to remain PM for several more years. That’s the view expressed in The Diplomat by Li Xirui and Dingding Chen, political observers familiar with China and Singapore.
While Dingding is the president of the Intellisia Institute and professor of International Relations at Jinan University, Guangzhou, China, Li is s a part-time research fellow at Intellisia Institute and a PhD student at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Singapore is abuzz with speculation over who will be the next Prime Minister following Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s surprise announcement last Thursday (Apr 8) that he was stepping aside from the leadership of the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) fourth generation (4G) of leaders.
He also announced that he was stepping down as Finance Minister.
But, according to the article in The Diplomat, the successor to Mr Heng is “unlikely to bring any inconsistency or change in the Government’s policy.”
The authors say that this is because Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he will lead Singapore through its biggest crisis and is likely to remain PM for several more years.
Furthermore, Mr Heng will continue to be active in the Government in his position as Deputy Prime Minister as well as Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, chairman of the National Research Foundation, and co-chair of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation between China and Singapore. He has even said he will stand in the 2025 general election, the authors point out.
And, finally, because the 4G core team remains intact, big policy shifts are unlikely when a successor is chosen.
The authors also mentioned the possible contenders to be the 4G leader: Transport and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister Lawrence Wong and Minister for National Development Desmond Lee. All of them were at the media conference with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Heng when the latter announced his decision on April 8.
Mr Chan, who was elected to the party’s central executive committee as second assistant secretary-general in November 2018, may be perceived as a favourite. But he is proving to be a polarising figure to the public, with online petitions for and against his being in the running for PM launched immediately after the Apr 8 announcement.
As for the Education Minister, the writers pointed out that it was “worth noticing” that Mr Wong had been given the task of providing the briefing on the discussion of the DPM’s decision to step aside during the media conference.
Although a clear front runner is yet to emerge, the writers pointed out that the Cabinet reshuffle in two weeks might provide some hints. We should look out for who succeeds Mr Heng as Finance Minister. That may “provide useful information on the issue”.
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