Singapore’s Potential Prime Ministers Is Whittled Down To 3 Candidates
Back in 2015, we highlighted 10 candidates who could go on to become Singapore’s next Prime Minister.
However, if mainstream media TODAY’s report is to be believed, the race for the country’s top position has been narrowed down into a three-horse race.
So who are the candidates and how do we know if one takes a step closer towards that iron throne?
In an interview with CNBC in October 2017, PM Lee was asked if he was close to finding the next Prime Minister. This is what he had to say:
“Oh, I think it’s very likely that he would be in the cabinet already but which one, well that would take a while to…to account.”
Given that the next PM would also be a fourth generation leader, who has TODAY anointed as the top 3 front-runners to PM Lee’s hot seat? Well, here’s a list of the candidates and why they have been touted to be the most likely.
1. Chan Chun Sing
Current position: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office & PAP’s Party Whip
Arguably the strongest of the 3 candidates, Mr Chan has been given the opportunity to take on key leadership roles such as serving as the Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress as well as the Deputy Chairman of the People’s Association.
In addition, according to Assoc Prof Eugene Tan, the former Chief of Army’s capacity as PAP’s Whip allows him to have a “deeper engagement with the party’s MPs and in running its parliamentary strategy”.
This would give Mr Chan some much needed knowledge and experience if he were to take over the hot seat one day.
2. Heng Swee Kiat
Current position: Minister for Finance
Since recovering from his stroke in May 2016, Mr Heng has taken on several important roles. This includes playing a part in Our Singapore Conservation project, the Committee on the Future Economy and chairing the Future Economy Council.
The latter is a particularly important role given that the council comprises of many fourth generation leaders such as Mr Ong and Mr Chan to name a few.
Assoc Prof Alan Chong commented that “As chair of the Future Economy Council, Mr Heng needs to have a good grasp of how all of Singapore works”.
With the government set to increase its spending on vital infrastructure such as the Jurong Lake District and the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail, he better have it.
3. Ong Ye Kung
Current position: Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) & Second Minister for Defence
Touted as the weakest candidate because he has a one political term deficit as compared to the other 2 candidates, Mr Ong Ye Kung has made up for lost time since his PAP team lost Aljunied in the 2011 General Elections.
According to TODAY, Mr Ong has “gained extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, having been involved with the labour movement, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Keppel Corporation”.
However, will that be enough to prove that he is a better candidate than Mr Chan and Mr Heng? Only time will tell.
Is it a little late?
As the search for Singapore’s next Prime Minister ramps up, political watchers have pointed out the worrying fact that the transition from third generation to fourth generation leaders has been slower than expected.
Former PAP Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh told TODAY that “the future Prime Minister (should have) started taking key duties by now”.
These “key duties” were briefly hinted at when Mr Heng and Mr Chan were spotted front and centre of a group picture taken when a Singaporean delegation accompanied PM Lee on an official visit to China.
However, none of the three are currently serving as Deputy Prime Minister — a position that has traditionally been used to prepare a candidate for the role of Prime Minister. Goh Chok Tong was DPM from 1985 before becoming PM in 1990, while PM Lee was DPM from 1990 and rose to PM in 2004.
All eyes on 2018 cabinet reshuffle
With PM Lee stating that a major Cabinet reshuffle will be carried out next year, Singaporeans will be paying close attention to see if any of the three candidates will be made a Deputy Prime Minister.
It seems that 2018 will be an important year for Singapore’s political scene given that Singaporeans will be evaluating the performance of these candidates to gauge if they will stick with the ruling party or start to listen to alternative voices.
It is safe to assume that the 3 touted candidates must be starting to feel the pressure pile up on their shoulders.