On this day, 12 august 2014, marks 10 years for Lee Hsien Loong’s tenure as Prime Minister. Naturally as in politics, the talk goes into who is going to succeed him. It is a very tricky issue, as it ties the fact that it is unclear when the Prime Minister himself is going to step down and how.
But for those who hope that he will do so before the next general election in 2016, tough luck. Why? It is likely that PM Lee would want to be at the helm come the 50th anniversary of Singapore (SG50), So he won’t likely exit the stage before or during the anniversary (Plus this also means the general election won’t be held in 2015, since nothing “unites” the nation better on an important date than a general election).
So he will lead us into 2016, into a general election, likely for the last time, so then what? there are several options:
1) A one-term transition Prime Minister. A senior member of the present Cabinet would take the helm to prep the true successor. In this case the two DPM’s, Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Teo Chee Hean has a shot, and if it comes, any cabinet changes (Especially the post of Deputy Prime Minister) will indicate the true successor. It would give breathing space and time for him, and make any policy/government mindset shift easier due to the gradual transition style. The next PM would likely have to lead into 2021, and then give way to his successor.
2) The last reshuffle. Remember that i mentioned the post of Deputy Prime Minister? other than the Lee Kuan Yew, two Prime minister held than post before accession into Premiership, so the likely move could be in 2015 or before/after GE 2016, a reshuffle will happen with the successor (Likely from the present cabinet) being elevated into Deputy Prime Minister. It would give the Succeeding PM a good run and time to gain experience for the main job. This would mean that the new PM being sworn in before 2021, probably a repeat of Lee Hsien Loong succession in 2004, before GE 2006.
3) The sudden Transition. An unlikely option, since it breaks the traditional succession route and mildly put it, rather dangerous. While it would still be likely a present cabinet member, such a option would put the succeeding Prime Minister little experience for the top job and would not inspire the confidence and trust of the electorate.
But who exactly to succeed the Prime Minister? Well…. the prime minister has previously stated that he wanted to reverse the trend of ageing prime minister. So that relatively clears out a lot of cabinet ministers from the line of succession (unless he opts for option 1 that i mentioned), but three names from the present cabinet comes out: Minister for Manpower-Tan Chuan Jin, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth-Lawrence Wong and Minister for Social and Family development-Chan Chun Seng.
While there could be an unexpected fourth potential candidate, these three cabinet ministers are the considered frontrunners to succeed PM Lee, primarily due to their age and also the post and limelight they receive in the public. They also the likely core of ministers that would stay on in cabinet if one of them (or any other) becomes Prime Minister of Singapore.
So ultimately the question is still open to who will succeed PM Lee into the top job in Singapore, and when. And that decision falls upon the Prime Minister himself, and probably that is in his mind as he celebrates 10 years in office.