Tan Chuan-Jin being nominated as Speaker of Parliament means he’s out of the PM race

This latest nomination pretty much confirms it.

By Jeanette Tan | September 5, 2017

Since the overwhelming 70 per cent victory for the People’s Action Party in the 2015 General Election, the race to Prime Minister has largely been whittled down to six main men:

  1. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat,
  2. Education Minister for Schools Ng Chee Meng,
  3. Education Minister for Higher Education Ong Ye Kung,
  4. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing,
  5. Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, and finally,
  6. Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

These names were always mentioned together in a lot of mainstream media coverage. Take this big feature from The Straits Times, for instance:

Screenshot via The Straits Times

And also this Today article, which lists Tan as one of a “roster” of younger leaders who would choose the next PM together:

Screenshot from Today article

With all this forming the key narrative on the minds of the public, Tuesday afternoon’s announcement definitely comes as a surprise — but more importantly, confirms a painful reality for anyone who has been rooting for the 48-year-old Tan to be Singapore’s next Prime Minister: that isn’t going to happen.

Leaving the cabinet will mark the end of Tan’s nearly 30 years of service in government.

It’s hard to deny that Tan’s having to step down from his role as a full Minister — one who’s been around longer than some of the others, like Ong and Ng, for instance — to take on the Speaker of Parliament nomination is a downward step for him, in terms of his political career.

Singapore’s PMs have always been from the cabinet

True, we have only had three Prime Ministers in our short 52-year-long history as an independent state. And certainly, the late Lee Kuan Yew formed Singapore’s first independence cabinet so he had no chance to be a cabinet minister beforehand.

But the fact is, now Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and current PM Lee Hsien Loong each spent substantial periods in full ministerial appointments in the cabinet before eventually rising to become the PM.

Now that Tan will no longer be a cabinet minister, it seems clear he is no longer in the running to step into PM Lee’s shoes.

In fairness, it’s not that it’s never happened before — in the past, the only time a Speaker of Parliament was brought into Cabinet as a Minister is in 1964, when E W Barker was brought on as Minister of Law after serving as Speaker of the then-Legislative Assembly between October 1963 and October 1964. Barker stood for his first election and won in 1963.

But barring that unlikely event of Tan being brought back from outside the government, after he’s elected as Speaker of Parliament, it’s quite clear that he’s out of the running.



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Top photo via Tan Chuan-Jin’s Facebook page

About Jeanette Tan

Jeanette takes pride in her ability to sing the complete lyrics to Hakuna Matata and a host of other Disney songs. She holds out hope to someday be talent-spotted to do voice-overs for documentaries, lifts and automated telephone answering systems.

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