Singapore—A professor of international relations said that Lee Hsien Yang’s presence is a reminder of the divide within the Lee family, which could affect Singapore’s next General Election (GE).
Lee Hsien Yang is the son of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and younger brother of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long.
According to Michael Barr, an associate professor of international relations at Flinders University in Australia,
“Lee Hsien Yang’s presence is very worrying for the government. His face and name is a constant, silent reminder that the Lee family is divided.”
Mr Barr is quoted in an article in Asia Times entitled Singapore’s Lee family feud gets political.
He was commenting on the recent launch of Progress Singapore Party (PSO), headed by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, as well as the younger Mr Lee’s support for PSP and his statement that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) “is no longer the PAP of my father” and “has lost its way.”
Mr Barr added, “The message of the PAP having lost its way is likely to be powerful. It is simple and it will resonate across the age spectrum.
Tan is superbly placed to deliver this message. He is perhaps looking back with rose-colored glasses, but I think there is a general disappointment with the Lee government.”
Still, according to the article, other analysts believe that the PAP is too big to fail, despite Dr Tan’s surging popularity as well as increasing discontent among many in Singapore.
In the most recent GE, held in 2015, PAP won almost 70 percent of the vote, as well as 83 out of the 89 seats in parliament.
And while many Singaporeans still trust the ruling party, there are those who feel that it has not held up the principles of the party’s founders.
Associate professor of law at Singapore Management University Eugene Tan is quoted in the article as saying, “The PAP still retains a relatively healthy level of trust and confidence with voters. But the assertion that the PAP has lost its way will resonate with voters who are disappointed with the ruling party for not keeping to the high standards laid down by the founders of the PAP.”
He believes that Dr Tan’s return to the political arena is no empty threat to the ruling party. “Being a well-regarded and popular former PAP MP, it would be foolhardy of the PAP to take his being an opposition politician lightly.”
Another person interviewed for the Asia Times article is activist and social worker Jolovan Wham, who made the news last year for posting on Facebook comparing judicial independence in Singapore with that of Malaysia, for which he ended up with contempt of court charges.
Mr Wham said, “For those who say the PAP has changed, it’s probably because they don’t trust the current prime minister. Lee Kuan Yew may have abused his power, but it is widely accepted that he did this out of benevolence and the greater good, whereas the same consideration is not given to Lee Hsien Loong.”
Lee Hsien Yang contributed S$20,000 to Mr Wham’s legal defense fund in May, to help shoulder considerable costs.
However, Mr Wham believes that the younger Mr Lee should not run for office in the next GE.
“I think it’s great that Lee Hsien Yang is showing a lot of support for the opposition and for civil society in general. But I wouldn’t encourage him to run as a candidate in the next general elections.
This is because he will be portrayed as someone who is seeking office to spite his brother, rather than someone who has a genuine vision of a more progressive Singapore and this may turn voters off. It’s also much healthier for us not to perpetuate dynastic rule and have another member of the Lee family in politics anymore.”
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