Photo of Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang and Pritam Singh from Today

Two leaders of Singapore’s biggest political parties said the same thing: selection of next leader is up to the cadres. However, Workers’ Party Low Thia Khiang will be completing the leadership handover in 2 months’ time, while PAP leader Lee Hsien Loong postponed his succession indefinitely.

Based off democratic principles, the Workers’ Party will be having an election for the next secretary general on April 8. Several heavyweight WP MPs like NCMP Daniel Wu and MP Sylvia Lim have ruled themselves out and some openly supported a candidate. MP Pritam Singh has been singled out as the favourite, with MP Chen Show Mao the next closest contender. The next WP secretary general is expected to hold the position for at least the next 15 years, with MP Low Thia Khiang having held his seat for 17 years.

A potential 15 years would likely see the declining popularity of PAP cost them government majority and thrust the next WP Secretary General as the next Prime Minister. If MP Pritam Singh is successful in his WP selection, the veteran lawyer will become Singapore’s first non-Chinese Prime Minister.

The political future of the ruling party PAP is however not as bright, with many already criticising the Prime Minister calling for Lee Hsien Loong to step down. Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and several PAP elites said that the succession is too late and that the new PAP leader have too few experience as a Deputy Prime Minister. Lee Hsien Loong, already 66 years old, however said that he needed more time.

The Prime Minister is afraid to call for an internal election similar that of Workers’ Party. Unlike the WP cadres, PAP Ministers are vying for the PM role and refusing to rule themselves out. The only Minister who ruled himself out is Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. According to sources close with the ruling party, most “younger generation” ministers like Ong Ye Kung, Chan Chun Sing, Lawrence Wong and Ng Chee Meng are eyeing the post, but “older Ministers” like Law Minister K Shanmugam and Grace Fu are also subtly interested.

The potential candidates of the PM successor are also highly controversial. Leading the PM’s choice is Chan Chun Sing, a former army general with no private sector experience, and the airhead Minister often subject himself to public ridicule due to his gaffes. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat appealed to many due to his experience in fiscal and expenditures affairs, but a stroke in 2016 raised questions about his eligibility. Minister Ong Ye Kung may fit the bill due to his age but the PAP Minister is deemed too inexperienced, despite being given a full Ministerial position only after two years from his election.

Alex Tan
STR Editor