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Singapore PM says succession to happen before elections

Singapore (AFP) – Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Sunday he will hand over power to a younger generation of leaders before the 2025 general elections.

Lee, 71, had planned to step down by 2022, before his 70th birthday, and hand the reins to his deputy, Lawrence Wong.

But that was postponed as Lee said he had to lead Singapore through the coronavirus crisis.

In a speech to members of his People’s Action Party (PAP) on Sunday, Lee said Wong and his team had “earned their spurs” during the pandemic and “there is no reason to delay the political transition.”

“Therefore, I intend to hand over to DPM Lawrence before the next general election,” Lee said.

“After that, I will be at the new PM’s disposal. I will go wherever he thinks I can be useful. I will do my best to help him and his team to fight and win the next GE,” he said.

Lee, who has been prime minister since 2004, did not say exactly when he would hand over to Wong, 50, the current finance minister.

“If all goes well, I will hand over by the PAP’s 70th birthday next year,” Lee said, referring to the party’s founding anniversary in November 2024.

If Wong takes over, it would be only the second time since Singapore’s independence in 1965 that the prime minister is not a member of the Lee family.

Lee Hsien Loong’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, was the country’s first prime minister.

A visibly emotional Lee told party members that it had been his “great fortune and honour” to serve the country for his entire adult life.

Lee said the party had been “utterly transformed, shaped by our many trials and tribulations”.

But he said it remained “dedicated to Singapore” and keeping the island “safe and secure”, which would not change under the next generation of leaders.

A series of rare scandals have rocked the ruling party recently.

The scandals, which officials admit have hurt the government’s reputation for incorruptibility, included the transport minister being probed for corruption and two ruling party legislators resigning over an affair.

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong delivers a speech during the Singapore Fab expansion grand opening in Singapore on September 12. PHOTO: AFP
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