Singapore’s planned political succession that would see Finance Minister Lawrence Wong become the country’s next leader will coincide with general elections due by 2025, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
The political landscape is getting more competitive, and Lee told members of his People’s Action Party that it’s imperative for them to keep Singaporeans on their side to ensure a hold on power with a strong mandate. Party members later voted on its central executive committee at the Sunday gathering.
“We will be tested on all fronts domestically as well as abroad,” Lee said. “I have no doubt our neighbours will be watching closely whether Singaporeans continue to support the government. Whether Singapore will continue to function and to succeed the way it has been doing.”
While it remains unclear whether the ruling party will seek a fresh mandate through early elections or if Lee, 70, plans to lead them, he said the PAP would keep on working at succession and leadership renewal of the so-called fourth generation of party cadres. Lee previously said he would hand the reins to Wong, 49, once he is ready.
The PAP is seeking to strengthen its hand after its worst showing in the 2020 election. Wong, who is also deputy prime minister, warned party members on Sunday it shouldn’t take winning the next election for granted, despite having held power since the city state’s independence in 1965.
The party elected its 14-member central executive committee, renewing many of its standing members. While Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong stepped down as its chair, Prime Minister Lee, Deputy Prime Ministers Wong and Heng Swee Keat, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung are among those who will remain.
“Continuity remains the name of the game, which bodes well for companies,” said Nydia Ngiow, Singapore-based managing director at strategic policy advisory firm Bower Group Asia. There may still be one more party election before a national vote, so for Lee “at this stage the results perhaps indicate he’s not quite ready to ease off just yet and the 4G leaders still need to prove themselves for the next few years.”
Wong said the opposition will be stronger at the next election, and reminded delegates that their challengers had won more seats and votes in recent contests.
“While we put up good candidates and fight to win every seat, we have to be prepared that we will not win all of them and nor can we assume that we’ll form the next government,” Wong said at the party’s congress. “Whether it happens before or in 2025, we already know it’ll be a tough battle.”
Wong said the government wants to tilt its “policies further in favor of the less fortunate and vulnerable,” as many in the wealthy island nation battle rising prices. The low inflation and interest rates of the past few decades have come to an end, said Wong.
He also warned the free flow of goods and investments that Singapore has grown accustomed to in recent decades is set to shift, if not reverse, with the emergence of a new “cold war” between the US and China, which “will be more dangerous than the first cold war.”