ST's editor-at-large: PAP's leadership succession, who will be next PM, should be reviewed

Questions after GE.

Nyi Nyi Thet | July 12, 2020, 06:25 PM

One underlying theme from GE2020 was the focus on People's Action Party's fourth gen (4G) leaders.

GE2020 was widely thought to be Lee Hsien Loong's final election as Prime Minister.

On nomination day, 4G leader and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat went over to traditionally competitive East Coast to stand against arguably Workers' Party's second strongest team.

It ended up being an incredibly close fight (53.41% to 46.59%).

Other 4G leaders enjoyed varying levels of success on polling day.

S Iswaran and Desmond Lee's West Coast GRC (26.88% drop), Chan Chun Sing and Indranee Rajah's Tanjong Pagar GRC (14.58% drop), Tan Chuan-Jin and Edwin Tong's Marine Parade GRC (6.31% drop), Masagos Zulkifli's Tampines GRC (5.65% drop), Lawrence Wong's Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC (5.52% drop), Ong Ye Kung's Sembawang GRC (4.99% drop), Josephine Teo's Jalan Besar GRC (2.36% drop), Vivian Balakrishnan's Holland-Bukit Timah GRC (0.26% drop) and of course Heng Swee Keat's East Coast GRC (7.29% drop).

GRCs that face opponents from the Progress Singapore Party or WP generally faced a steeper drop.

The People's Action Party (PAP)'s national vote share fell to 61.24 per cent, a drop of 8.66 per cent.

The Straits Times editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang weighed in on the issue of 4G leadership in his piece "Singapore GE2020: Vote signals a desire for change, but not in a hurry".

You can read it here.

Han highlighted three issues which PAP has to address, one of them being the ongoing transition to the 4G leadership, which he considered the most important issue.

The other two issues Han brought up were "How to win over younger voters" and how "The PAP has not changed its fundamental approach, which is top down and technocratic".

But back to the first point.

Han called for a re-examining of leadership renewal from the PAP, specifically the appointment

Han made it clear that he was not basing this on Heng's own performance in the GE, pointing out that Chan had suffered an even steeper decline in the election.

Instead he felt it was needed as the world had changed, and it was thus important to re-examine previous assumptions, including leadership succession.

Han wrote that if PAP members choose Heng again during the review, the outcome would be good as it is a reconfirmation of their stance, however if the party decides differently, "it has to move quickly to make the change".

4G during the election

PM Lee himself had come out to praise the 4G leaders on their handling of Covid-19 on July 1:

"I would say that in handling Covid-19, the 4G leaders have done very well,"

During the campaigning period, Tan Cheng Bock raised questions on the choice of debater put up by the PAP:

While speaking to reporters during his walkabout at Bishan North Shopping Mall in Marymount Single Member Constituency (SMC) on July 2, the 80-year-old said he was "surprised to find Vivian there, and not all the other 4G leaders", Today reported.

Vivian Balakrishnan, the debate participant, clarified that he was indeed a 4G leader, being the same age as Heng.

Yahoo News Singapore reported on July 7 that Pritam Singh mentioned how members of the public had made comments on how the 4G leaders handling of the pandemic left "more to be desired".

Pritam, like Han, also touched on PM Lee's Fullerton rally, which saw PM seemingly placing more emphasis on Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam still being at "the helm of the ship".

But perhaps more than what was said during the election, what might be most damaging could be the results of the election itself.

Saying that he was "naturally disappointed" that the PAP lost a GRC in Sengkang, Lee said the team -- made up of Ng Chee Meng, Lam Pin Min, Amrin Amin and Raymond Lye -- always knew it was going to be "a tough fight".

While the team “gave it their all”, they respect the decision made by Sengkang voters, he said.

He said: "It is, however, a major loss to my team, and to the 4G leaders, especially as Ng Chee Meng is the secretary-general of the NTUC."

Image from Lee Hsien Loong and Heng Swee Keat Facebook