Following the announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on stepping aside as the leader of the People’s Action Party (PAP)’s fourth-generation (4G) team, the question on everyone’s mind is: Who will take his place?
In his announcement, Mr Heng cited his age as a factor in his decision, noting that the next 4G leader who will eventually take over as Prime Minister should have a “sufficiently long runway” to master the job.
Mr Heng is 60 now and will be in his mid-60s by the time the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be over — a time when current PM Lee Hsien Loong said he would step down to make way for the 4G leaders.
“The 60s are still a very productive time of life. But when I also consider the ages at which our first three prime ministers took on the job, I would have too short a runway should I become the next prime minister then,” said Mr Heng in a press conference.
Given the recent developments, Yahoo! Singapore has put up a poll on its website to gauge the people’s sentiments on who they would like to see as the next 4G leader and Prime Minister.
Of the 22,634 votes cast at the time of writing, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah and National Development Minister Desmond Lee are tied in the bottom at just 5 percent.
Next is Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing with 9 percent and Education Minister Lawrence Wong with 17 percent.
Leading the pack is Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung with 29 per cent.
However, most of the votes—35 percent—were for “others”, meaning that of the five ministers named in the poll, none are actually the first choice.
In a different poll by The Independent Singapore, the ministers listed were Mr Chan, Mr Ong, Mr Lee and Mr Wong, as well as Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Speaker of the House Tan Chuan-Jin.
While the results of that poll have yet to be revealed, netizens in the comments said that they are not satisfied with any of the listed options.
Many commenters, however, said that they would like to see Mr Tharman take over as PM.
“Singapore is ready for a non-Chinese PM,” said one commenter.
Some opined, however, that he would make a good interim Prime Minister while the party sorts out a better, longer-term option.
One netizen said that instead of the PM post, Mr Tharman would be well-suited for the Finance Minister portfolio once Mr Heng steps down.
Support for Mr Tharman as a potential successor to the PM was already established back in 2016, according to a poll by market research consultancy Blackbox commissioned by Yahoo! Singapore.
The poll showed that 69 per cent of all 897 respondents support Mr Tharman as a candidate for future PM.
Mr Heng was a distant second with 25 per cent while Mr Chan garnered 24 per cent.
Mr Wong and Mr Ong both got less than 10 per cent, while Mr Desmond Lee was not even mentioned as a potential PM candidate.