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Singapore’s GE13 could be held in 2019, say PM Lee

The general elections may be called as soon as next year, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

While speaking at the welcome dinner dialogue of the Bloomberg New Economic Forum, PM Lee was asked if Singpore’s bicentennial celebration of Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival next year might be a reason to bring forward the general election which is due to be held in 2021, PM Lee said “It’s always possible. There are many reasons to bring elections forward for a party, so we’ll see”.

As of yet, there has been talks of an election being called in 2019 but nothing concrete has been announced. According to the constitution, the next general election has to be held by 15 January 2021, at which point the current parliament will be dissolved by operation of law. But it may be dissolved at any time before the expiry of its 5-year term by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, which some have criticised as being an advantage for the ruling party against the opposition, whom always has to guess when would the Parliament be dissolved while the People's Action Party is well-prepared with its grassroots and candidates for the GE.

During the dialogue, PM Lee was also asked if the next generation of Lees – his three sons and daughter – would be involved in politics. PM Lee replied that he wasn’t sure any of his children had known interest in coming to politics. He said, “they are entitled to, but I don’t think it’s likely they feel the same compulsion that I did, duty that I do. They have their own responsibilities and careers. I’m sure they’ll make contributions in their own ways”.

He added, “but it would be unkind of me to add more burden on them. It’s difficult enough for them as it is to carry my name”.

The question of continuing the Lee political dynasty had arisen before last year when Mr Lee and his siblings were involved in a public spat over their father’s – Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s – house on 38 Oxley Road. PM Lee’s siblings had accused Mr Lee and his wife Ho Ching of harbouring political ambition for their son Li Hongyi – a notion that was refuted by PM Lee and his wife. Mr Li, who is in the public service at Govtech, had also come out to say that he has no interest in politics.

During the dinner dialogue, chair of the Taiwanese Far Eastern Group, Mr Douglas Hsu stated that 38 Oxley Road should be retained to remember the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. In response, PM Lee said that the argument with his siblings over the house has become a ‘vexed issue’ and that he has recused himself from all decisions on the matter, adding that when the time comes, the government of the day will decide what to do with the house.

Another topic that was discussed during this dialogue session was the effect of social media on the current political landscape. On this, PM Lee said that social media brings with it fake news which encourages overnight opinions not based on fact. He said, “it’s ridiculous. One night you go to sleep and when you wake up, hundreds of thousands of people are agitated”. He noted that this makes it more difficult for the government to make long term plans, adding that "it's harder for people to focus on the long term and believe you have a workable scheme to get from here to there, because every day you are chasing a new rabbit."

Unfortunately for the government of every nation, social media is here to stay and with it, fake news. It’s up to the government to combat false ideas and unverified facts on the digital front while it’s the people’s duty to question the government. The internet simply makes it easier for the people to do that.