When news of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat decided to throw in the towel and announced last Thursday (8 Apr) that he was relinquishing his role as heir apparent to the current PM, Lee Hsien Loong, The Economist also followed up with a short write-up (‘Rules of succession: Singapore’s next prime minister‘).
“Succession in Singapore is normally planned years in advance by the grandees of the People’s Action Party, which led the country to independence in 1965 and has governed ever since,” The Economist commented.
“But they failed to foresee that Mr Heng, an accomplished technocrat, lacked the skills of a retail politician (though he says he is resigning because he will be too old for the job once he gets it).”
“In the most recent election, he (Heng) won his constituency by just 53%—a humiliating scrape,” it added.
The Economist then speculated that Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing would replace Heng but went on to paint a not so positive image of Chan.
“The favourite to replace him is Chan Chun Sing, the pugnacious trade minister, who at 51 is a whippersnapper,” it said.
51-year-old Chan entered politics in 2011 during the General Elections as a PAP candidate in Tanjong Pagar GRC helmed by late Lee Kuan Yew. Chan had been a professional military man since 1987 who rose to the rank of Major General and the appointment of Chief of Army, prior to stepping down from the position to contest in the GE.
After being elected, he was immediately appointed as acting Minister of defunct- Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts (MIDA). He was subsequently appointed acting Minister of Social and Family (MSF) and then made full-Minister in 2013 and concurrently served as Second Minister for Defence.
After being elected for the second time in the GE2015, Chan took up the role of a Minister in Prime Minister Office for a period of time while he was elected and was concurrently taking up the position of Deputy Chairman of the People’s Association (PA) and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)’s deputy secretary-general.
He was later appointed as Minister of Trade and Industry (MTI) in 2018. In that same year, Chan was elected as 2nd assistant-secretary general (ASG) of PAP.
Chan remains as Minister of MTI and his positions as 2nd ASG of PAP and Deputy Chairman of PA.
“While the PAP debates the succession, Mr Lee has manfully agreed to stay in power for as long as it takes to find a replacement.”
The Economist has described Chan as “pugnacious“, which means “inclined to quarrel or fight readily”.
It also described Chan as a “whippersnapper“, meaning Chan is deemed by The Economist as “an unimportant but offensively presumptuous person, especially a young one”.
In 2004, The Economist was forced to pay defamation damages to the PM Lee and his family over an article it published on Temasek headed by his wife, Ho Ching. It apologised and agreed to pay damages of S$390,000.