Lee Hsien Yang weighs presidential run, uncertain about returning to Singapore amidst probe

Lee Hsien Yang weighs presidential run, uncertain about returning to Singapore amidst probe

Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), the younger brother of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has expressed his interest in running for president in the upcoming election, adding to the ongoing political drama surrounding the Lee family.

In a phone interview with Bloomberg News, LHY revealed his intentions to run for the presidency, saying that “a lot of people have come to me. They really want me to run. It’s something I would consider.”

LHY, a former chief executive of Singtel and former chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, made this announcement after the government revealed an ongoing police investigation against him and his wife, Lee Suet Fern, over the handling of his father’s last will.

Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Mr Teo Chee Hean, revealed in a written parliamentary reply on Thursday (2 Mar) that LHY and his wife were under investigation for allegedly giving false evidence in judicial proceedings.

The presidential election is set to take place by September this year, and Lee Hsien Yang’s potential run could prove problematic for the ruling People’s Action Party, which is headed by his brother.

The last presidential election – a reserved election for Malays – was a walkover election for Mdm Halimah Yacob after two interested candidates were disqualified by the raised qualification criteria for candidates from the private sector.

Despite the high qualification criteria,  LHY is eligible to run for office due to his various senior commercial appointments in companies.

And while LHY is officially a member of the Progress Singapore Party, he would not be the first to resign from a political party to contest in the presidential election just as what Mdm Halimah did.

However, the ongoing investigation may affect his candidacy. “What the chances are that I will return to Singapore in the foreseeable future,” said LHY to Bloomberg.

LHY did not reveal his current location and said he was unsure of the chances of returning to Singapore in the foreseeable future due to the ongoing investigation.

He said that there is a view that, depending on who the ruling party floats, “if I were to run, they would be in serious trouble and could lose.”

Rumours on the ground suggest that Lee Hsien Yang’s sister-in-law, Ho Ching, may also be keen on running for the position. However, it is unlikely for Ho Ching to win in a contested election due to public opinion.

The president of Singapore represents the country in official diplomatic functions and has some executive powers, including control of the national reserves and the ability to veto and revoke public service appointments.

Lee Hsien Yang and his family have been embroiled in a long-standing dispute over the fate of the 38 Oxley property following the passing of their father, Lee Kuan Yew, in 2015.

In 2017, Lee Hsien Yang and his sister accused their brother, Lee Hsien Loong, of using “organs of the state” against them and their family, leading to a parliamentary session to clear himself of the allegations.

Following that, Lee Hsien Yang’s family faced a series of actions from the Attorney General’s Chambers, which is headed by Lee Hsien Loong’s former lawyer who handled the matter of the 38 Oxley property.

The Prime Minister’s Office has yet to respond to queries by Bloomberg regarding Lee Hsien Yang’s potential run for the presidency.

The presidential election is scheduled to take place no later than 13 September 2023.

The outcome of the election could have significant implications for Singapore’s political landscape, as tensions continue to simmer within the Lee family and the ruling People’s Action Party.

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