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GE2020 was a referendum on Heng Swee Keat as the anointed next PM. He did not do well

Sense and Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah




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The People’s Action Party’s succession plan is in jeopardy. The GE2020 results have shown that its 4G leaders do not quite have it to carry the ground to see the party – and the country – through to the 2020s and beyond. In short, it is suffering from a leadership crisis.

Its two main 4G torch-bearers, Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing, have not been able to make any inroads in generating greater enthusiasm among voters, especially the young. The other two in the collective team leadership quartet are Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung.

Wong and Ong have not increased their vote shares in Marsiling-Yew Tee and Sembawang. The PAP’s shares have dropped by 5 per cent since 2015 in for Wong and also 5 per cent for Ong from the party’s showing in 2015. Both have had high-profile portfolios where they enjoy media limelight, so no excuse.

Chan saw his GRC team vote share dropped by 9 per cent from the 2015 performance in Tanjong Pagar, the late Lee Kuan Yew’s fortress. One wonders what the share would have been if Lee Hsien Yang had stood there with the Progress Singapore Party team.

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Chan, who was once touted to be the frontrunner of the 4G cohort but in the end saw Heng being identified as the anointed one, has been getting himself entangled in all sorts of strange public media knots. They included saying things he should not have albeit behind closed doors and challenging Pritam Singh over something the Workers’ Party chief had every right to do as an MP.

And there is DPM Heng. He is supposed to be the best of the group. Before GE2020, his general performance has been, to say the least, already lacklustre. His performance in the election is even worse.

The kindest thing one can say is that, possibly, only possibly, that his switch from Tampines GRC to hot East Coast is a PAP “master stroke”. If he had not gone there, the GRC would have gone to Nicole Seah and company. He nearly lost.

That’s not good and certainly not good enough for someone who is being slated to be the next Prime Minister of Singapore.

I have every confidence that Heng is a first-rate, even world-class, Finance Minister. But there are all sorts of questions now on his status as a PM who must enjoy the confidence of young Singaporeans not only for his technical and administrative skills but as a communicator with the flair to engage people in public. Is he up to it?

The PAP should neither short-change the country nor force DPM Heng to be something that he may not be suited for. It is rather unfortunate for him that the benchmark standard of the first three PMs, including PM Lee Hsien Loong himself, has been quite high.


Tan Bah Bah, editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.  


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