Vacancy: PM of Singapore

APRIL 11 — Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (HSK) announced that he would be taking himself out of contention for the role of SIngapore's next prime minister.

In a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, HSK who is also Finance Minister said that he was resigning from his position as leader of the ruling People's Action Party's 4th generation leadership and effective heir apparent to the prime ministership.

The news was something of a surprise as HSK had been considered the front runner to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

However, he seems to have struggled to assume the mantle of heir apparent. 

There have been persistent doubts about his health. In 2016, he collapsed during a Cabinet meeting having suffered a stroke. 

Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaks at a UBS client conference in Singapore, January 14, 2019. — Reuters pic
Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaks at a UBS client conference in Singapore, January 14, 2019. — Reuters pic

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During the 2020 general election campaign, he appeared to struggle with his words while talking about his plans for the East Coast — inspiring hundreds of memes and leading some observers to wonder if he had suffered another minor stroke.

While HSK would go on to win the East Coast GRC, the PAP secured just 53 per cent of the vote down from over 60 in the previous election.

His performance again raised questions about his electability and despite impeccable credentials and a strong track record as finance minister, the worry was he couldn't connect with people.  

There seemed to be a general lack of gravitas and charisma.

That he has made way for another member of the 4th generation leadership is ultimately an admission of failure, not just by HSK but also by the ruling party.

For years now, the party has struggled with the question of who will fill the shoes of Lee Hsien Loong, son of our founding father Lee Kuan Yew.

Popular choice Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam took himself out of the race ostensibly because of age. 

Of the 4th generation leaders, the front runners appear to be Chan Chun Sing, the current Minister of Trade and Industry, and Lawrence Wong Minister for Education. But the process of selecting a new front runner is likely to take time.

Again, so the fundamental issue remains: who will replace long-serving PM Lee? 

After 16 years at the helm, approaching 70 and with health issues of his own, the man who has done a very good job of filling his father's shoes must be looking forward to putting his feet up but there's still no sign of any rest for him.

* This the personal opinion of the columnist.

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