On Sunday (5 Nov), Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced his plans to hand over the reins of leadership to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong before the forthcoming General Election, mandated to be held by November 2025.
Addressing over a thousand members of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) at the party’s 2023 awards and convention held at the Singapore Expo, PM Lee stated that the next General Election will coincide with the party’s leadership transition to the 4G team, setting a tentative timeline for this to occur by the PAP’s 70th birthday on November 21, 2024.
“Lawrence has told me that he is ready, and this morning you have heard him telling you that he is ready for his next assignment. I have full confidence in Lawrence and his team and there is no reason to delay the political transition.
“Therefore, I intend to hand over to DPM Lawrence before the next GE,” said Mr Lee.
Reflecting on the disruptions caused by the pandemic, PM Lee acknowledged the delay in his retirement plans, which were originally intended to occur before his 70th birthday in February 2022.
“So if all goes well, I will hand over by the PAP’s 70th birthday next year – it’s not my birthday, but I will borrow it for this purpose.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stern test for us all, but it has not derailed our plans for renewal,” he assured the assembly.
He emphasized that the transition to the 4G team is crucial and timely: “Everything depends on the success of this third transition in our history,” PM Lee stated.
The succession plan has been in the public eye since DPM Heng Swee Keat stepped aside, allowing a younger leader with a ‘longer runway’ to lead the party, with DPM Wong subsequently being endorsed as the leader of the 4G team.
PM Lee reflected on this decision, noting the importance of continuity and long-term planning. “Lawrence and the 4G team have earned their spurs during the COVID-19 crisis, setting the national agenda with vigor and vision,” he said.
PM Lee provided insights into the decision-making process, weighing the options for the transition’s timing.
He delineated two paths: “Either I can continue to lead the party in the next GE, my fifth as PM, and then hand over soon afterwards to Lawrence; or I can hand over to Lawrence before the GE, then he leads the party into the campaign, wins his own mandate, and takes the country forward with the full backing of the nation,” he elaborated.
He also stressed the international implications of this transition, with both Singaporeans and the international community watching closely.
He expressed confidence in DPM Wong and the 4G team, stating, “Lawrence has told me that he is ready, and this morning you have heard him telling you that he is ready for his next assignment. I have full confidence in Lawrence and his team, and there is no reason to delay the political transition.”
Netizens emphasize the need for DPM Wong to secure public endorsement in the upcoming GE for leadership
Amidst Prime Minister Lee’s decision to nominate DPM Wong as the leader of the PAP and the 4G team in anticipation of the next General Election, an examination of comments on Singapore’s mainstream media CNA and The Straits Times‘ Facebook posts, alongside discussions on the social media platform Reddit, has revealed a diverse range of perspectives.
While certain sections of ardent pro-PAP supporters have acknowledged PM Lee’s relentless two-decade-long dedication to steering the nation, expressing confidence in DPM Wong’s competence to guide Singapore in the future, a notable portion of commentary has emphasized the critical role of the public’s endorsement in the leadership transition to the 4G team.
These individuals underscored the pivotal nature of the upcoming General Election, which will serve as an indicator of whether the populace recognizes the performance and leadership abilities of the PAP’s 4G leadership, helmed by DPM Wong.
This evaluation occurs against the backdrop of mounting concerns regarding the inflation-driven increase in the cost of living and other socio-economic challenges that have significantly impacted the daily lives of ordinary Singaporeans.
Furthermore, some members of the public have expressed apprehension about the potential uncertainties looming on the horizon.
They have highlighted the possibility of unforeseen disruptions during this transitional period, such as the resurgence of major crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, heightened geopolitical tensions, or the eruption of another local political bombshell or scandal, any of which could potentially thwart Mr Lee’s plan to facilitate a smooth handover to DPM Wong.
One netizen aptly underscored the distinction between a statesman’s endorsement of his successor and the crucial, independent decision-making power vested in the people themselves.
While acknowledging Singapore’s commendable progress thus far, the netizen alerted that it’s essential to recognize the multifaceted challenges that lie ahead, “no one can be so certain where the will of the people lie.”
On the other hand, an alternate perspective argued the strategic importance of the planned succession within the ruling party, underscoring its role in facilitating comprehensive training across various ministries, thereby providing a holistic understanding of governance.
Doubts linger over seamless transition to DPM Wong, hinging on “if all goes well”
In the wake of PM Lee’s definitive announcement regarding his succession plan, vigilant netizens have raised concerns about potential uncertainties lingering until November next year.
They have emphasized that PM Lee explicitly mentioned the condition that the succession plan hinges on a smooth process, contingent on the absence of major political upheavals or scandals during this interim period.
A comment insinuated a cautious stance, pondering the possibility of another crisis unfolding and necessitating PM Lee’s prolonged stay to manage the situation before any planned handover.
Confidence in 4G team led by DPM Wong
Another netizen underlined the uncertainties surrounding the transition of power and its implications for Singapore’s governance and global perception.
The netizen suggested that the shift might signify the conclusion of the “Lee dynasty” and raised questions about the trust and confidence that Singaporeans and foreign investors will place in Lawrence Wong’s team.
A comment urges the significance of the next leader prioritizing the people’s needs, stressing that the identity of the winner is less crucial than their dedication to the populace.
Speculation of PM Lee’s future portfolio in 4G cabinet
Contrary to the idea of full retirement, some netizens speculate that PM Lee may take on the role of Senior Minister in the Cabinet, overseeing the 4G leadership’s operations in the future, akin to what the late Lee Kuan Yew did after his tenure.
This speculation seemed to suggest a likelihood of his appointment as the senior minister, despite previous statements indicating his intention not to follow in his father’s footsteps in that capacity.
Notions of an imminent GE gain traction through comments
Some comments suggested that the General Election (GE) is fast approaching.
Notably, a netizen highlighted that the ruling party leader had strategically planned the timing, speculating that Lawrence Wong would not assume leadership until November of the following year.
This observation indicated a significant duration of approximately one year before the anticipated handover.
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