Speaking at the 27th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo on Thursday (May 26), Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, confirmed that he will not be retiring after handing the reins over to his successor-in-waiting – Lawrence Wong.
On 14 April 2022, Wong was selected as the leader of the PAP’s fourth-generation (4G) team, succeeding deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat, who had stepped down as 4G leader on 8 April 2021.
Prior to his appointment, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong delegated former PAP-chairman Khaw Boon Wan to initiate a consultation process among the fourth-generation ministers of the Singapore cabinet, aimed at garnering their individual views regarding the selection of a new 4G leader. However, both Lee and the two senior ministers of the cabinet, Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Teo Chee Hean, abstained from participating in the process.
Wong received an “overwhelming majority” of support in the consultation process, surpassing that of Chan Chun Sing and Ong Ye Kung, his cabinet colleagues and co-contestants in the 4G leadership race.
He received 15 out of the 19 votes from the stakeholders polled, and as no candidate is allowed to vote for himself, this meant that only three other individuals did not vote for him as their first choice. His candidature was unanimously endorsed by the cabinet and subsequently, by the PAP MPs at a party caucus on 14 April. His appointment was announced by Lee in a Facebook post the same day.
As the new 4G leader, Wong subsequently emerged as Lee’s apparent successor to the position of prime minister; the latter’s initial plans to step down at the age of 70 had been thwarted by Heng’s withdrawal.
In the conference and in responding to a question from the floor asking, “When you yield your Prime Minister’s seat to Mr Lawrence Wong, what type of retirement are your planning,” Mr Lee said: “I am not planning my retirement.”
He added that he intends to “make myself be in a position to step down and hand over as prime minister to my successor”.
“After which, I see it as my responsibility to do my best to help him succeed and to help Singapore continue to succeed. And whatever he thinks I’m useful to him for, I shall be happy to fulfil,” he said.
PM Lee also said that it was impossible to predict how Singapore’s political landscape might evolve.
“Every generation, the environment is different, the values and the influences on the children growing up are different and they come up with different expectations, different aspirations, and it will express itself in the politics of the country,” he added.
“Nobody can say how things will develop in two, three, four elections’ time, but for as long as we can, it is the responsibility of me and my team to govern Singapore well, to maintain the support of the population, and to keep Singapore united and cohesive,” he said. “So that in a dangerous world, we make sure that we are safe, and we can look after ourselves, and have a future for our people.”