Singapore—The times, as the song goes, are a-changing. Or are they, really?
A Reuters report weighed in on whether or not voters’ views would be taken into consideration in choosing the next leader of the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) fourth generation (4G) team following Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s surprise announcement last Thursday (Apr 8) that he is stepping down as 4G leader and, by extension, as presumptive heir to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
This has led to questions concerning who will now succeed PM Lee.
Traditionally, choosing a leader for the ruling party has not been a transparent one, with the decision being an internal affair.
“The PAP has for the last 2 successions chosen the PM-designate in an opaque manner based on consensus,” wrote former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng in a Facebook post on Monday, Apr 12.
Mr Cheng added that between the two factors considered—internal (support from the party) and external (public approval), “Often, the FIRST factor (INTERNAL) overrides the second.”
Could this be changing, however?
In the Reuters report, an honorary professor of political science at the University of Queensland, Garry Rodan, is quoted as saying, “If there is a lesson to be learnt from the past processes, though, it may be that greater account needs to be taken of what voters’ views are.”
Moreover, honorary research associate at the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute Malaysia, Bridget Welsh, said, “As the Singapore model itself faces pressures for change, so does its politics.”
The perception is that the PAP’s 4G needs to get the issue of succession right, and that it cannot delay too long.
In email comments, former PAP MP Inderjit Singh told Reuters, “The PAP risks looking weak as the leadership transition gets delayed. I hope the 4G leaders realise that the future of the PAP is at risk should they not show strong unity.”
So far, the public has been weighing in on perceived frontrunners: Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister Lawrence Wong and Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.
Mr Chan seems to be somewhat of a polarising figure, with online petitions begun both in favour “Say YES to Chan Chun Sing for PM!“, as well as against “Say NO to Chan Chun Sing for PM!“, his becoming the next Prime Minister.
Almost 880 people have so far said yes to Mr Chan, and over 5,500 have said no.
However, a mothership.sg Twitter poll over the weekend showed that 23 per cent of respondents were in favour of Mr Chan succeeding DPM Heng, but the front runner, by one percentage point, was Mr Wong over Mr Ong.
Mr Wong, who co-chaired the multi-ministry task force to address Covid-related issues, is considered to have managed the crisis well.
Interesting times, as they say.
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