Sunday, July 14, 2024
HomesingaporeSingapore’s next General Election likely to be held in late 2024 at...

Singapore’s next General Election likely to be held in late 2024 at the earliest, analysts say

SINGAPORE: Singapore can expect its next General Election (GE) to most likely be held in November 2024 at the earliest, political analysts told CNA, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday (Nov 5) his timeline for handing over leadership to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.

While the analysts were not surprised by Mr Lee’s transition plans, they said the election timeline could have been moved up due to his newly stated intention to pass the baton to Mr Wong before the next GE and “if all goes well”, by Nov 21 next year – the 70th anniversary of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Addressing more than 1,000 party members at the PAP awards and convention, Mr Lee, also said that there was no reason to delay the transition any longer.

Singapore’s next GE has to be called by November 2025.

Explaining why the election is likely to be next year instead, Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan noted how 2024 marks not only the PAP’s 70th anniversary but also Mr Lee’s 20th year as Prime Minister.

These were mentioned in Mr Lee’s speech on Sunday and the ruling party could want to leverage on these important milestones like how it did for SG50 at GE2015, he said.

As for the exact timing of the polls, Associate Professor Tan said that if it does not happen after Budget 2024, it could fall at the end of the year, given his suspicions that Mr Lee will deliver his last National Day Rally speech in August.

Meanwhile, Institute of Policy Studies’ senior fellow Gillian Koh interpreted Mr Lee’s speech as signalling that it was now “certain that the next general election will not be held till November 2024”.

Dr Felix Tan, an independent political observer, noted that Sunday’s announcement was “overdue” given how Mr Lee had been talking about handing over to the next generation of leaders for several years now.

“By saying that he would love to hand over (by) next November – it’s a kind of an implicit way of telling Singaporeans, and also the 4G (fourth-generation) leaders, that probably there will be an election … at least in 2024,” Dr Tan said. 

“My assessment is that after handing over the reins to DPM Wong, the new leadership might want to quickly entrench his position by calling for an election soonest.”

Related:

PM Lee to hand over leadership to DPM Lawrence Wong by November 2024, before next General Election

'Crazy argument' to say Singapore doesn't need capable ministers because of good civil servants: PM Lee

Mr Wong was endorsed as the leader of the party’s 4G team last year after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, the initial PM-in-waiting, abruptly stepped aside in 2021, citing his desire for a younger leader with a “longer runway” to take over.

Mr Lee had previously expressed hopes of stepping down before his 70th birthday in February 2022. This plan was disrupted by the pandemic.

Ms Nydia Ngiow, managing director of public policy consultancy BowerGroupAsia, pointed to earlier “widespread speculation” over when the leadership transition would take place, especially given the lack of clarity before Mr Lee’s announcement on Sunday.

“Handing over the premiership before the GE should be viewed as PM’s expression of confidence in the 4G leaders, especially when there appears to be little opportunity going forward for the 4G leaders to show their mettle,” Ms Ngiow added.

“That said, it could be argued that if he was truly confident in the 4G, he could have handed over the national security portfolio – defence, home affairs, foreign affairs – to them earlier, rather than have it still be run by 3G ministers.”

SMU’s Assoc Prof Eugene Tan said that the sooner the handover happens, the better it would work out in terms of how the public perceives the 4G leadership.

“Given the extended transition, I think the thinking would be that any further delay could cast unnecessary doubt as to whether the 3G leadership has sufficient confidence in the 4G,” said Assoc Prof Tan.

Dr Koh said that with Mr Lee’s announcement, notice has been given to the PAP leaders and rank and file that they have a year to prepare themselves for the next GE at least.

This allows everyone to take a break from the speculation and to focus on what seems to be more important to the 4G team, she added.

Mr Wong and the 4G team, which released a report last week on its Forward Singapore exercise, require time to “effectively convey this holistic picture of Singapore’s next bound of social and economic development back to the people”, Dr Koh noted.

“This is occasion for the 4G to engage the public yet again, sector by sector, segment by segment and this is really the most honest way for political leaders to prime themselves for a general election.”

Related:

'Embrace wider definitions of success': Forward SG report lays out roadmap for a new Singapore vision

Commentary: Forward SG report reveals emerging consensus on Singapore’s future direction

“MAJOR” CABINET RESHUFFLE COMING UP?

Even with the handover occurring before the next GE, analysts expect Mr Lee to continue to feature prominently alongside Mr Wong in the PAP’s campaigning.

“After (handing over), 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 fight and win the next GE,” said Mr Lee on Sunday.

The current Prime Minister’s presence can help “build confidence” and provide assurance that “there will always be someone guiding” the 4G leadership, said Dr Felix Tan.

SMU’s Assoc Prof Eugene Tan said: “We could perhaps even see both Mr Lee and Mr Wong being the face of the party on election posters and banners – in a way, trying to emphasise that this is a critical transition of leadership … and relying on the capital of both leaders.”

Some 3G leaders are also expected to remain in politics as mentors to “demonstrate continuity amid change”, he added.

That said, some retirements may be expected, and could take place in a “major” Cabinet reshuffle as soon as before the end of 2023, or else in early 2024, according to Assoc Prof Tan.

He noted how Mr Lee had in recent years “customarily” announced a reshuffle in his Cabinet every year, although the extent of change differed.

Given how the ministers have been in their current positions for nearly two to three years, the next reshuffle would very likely carry “very significant imprints” of Mr Wong and the 4G team.

In addition, a reshuffle ahead of a GE is also “quite common”, said Assoc Prof Tan. 

“Not immediately before (a GE) but (to signal) this will be the team that will be the Cabinet if the PAP regains power and so, it’s meant to inspire confidence,” he added.

CHANGING LEADERSHIP STYLE?

At the PAP convention on Sunday, Mr Wong mentioned how he intends to approach leadership by finding common ground, instead of accentuating differences.

This, said the political observers, was in line with the leadership stance that Mr Wong has put forth since being considered a frontrunner to lead the 4G team. This was also how Mr Wong had positioned the Forward Singapore exercise.

And it is in response to changing demands among Singaporeans when it comes to political leadership and how policies should be made, said SMU’s Assoc Prof Tan. 

“In a way, the party has to adapt to those changing expectations and desires.”

Related:

PAP must improve how it communicates, highlight differences between its policies and opposition's: Lawrence Wong

Singapore 'will never let the system go corrupt', says PM Lee

Dr Felix Tan said: “What we’ll see in Lawrence Wong’s term or tenure as prime minister in the future, is probably an extension of a very consultative kind of government.”

He noted the importance of this shift, given how there remain some segments of society who may feel that the government “has a one track mind”.

“So I think Lawrence Wong (is) trying to change that sort of perspective – we want to have diverse voices. Everyone has a voice, but let’s try to compromise or try to find a middle ground that best suits everyone.”

In his speech, Mr Wong also said the PAP must highlight the differences between its policies and those of the opposition, adding that in most areas the latter’s proposals are “shades of the PAP’s”.

The PAP must improve how it communicates – not just through government communications – and must make clear what it stands for and its long-term plans, he said.

Mr Lee, in his speech, also touched on a similar point, noting that the PAP must work hard to convince Singaporeans that the party is “on their side”.

“We have to engage widely, present and communicate our policies well, and help Singaporeans understand how they and their families benefit from these policies,” he said.

“We have to show them what is at stake, and inspire them to fight hard together with us for a better future.”

Ms Ngiow said given the string of controversies that the PAP has had to deal with in recent months, the ruling party has an “increasingly difficult job of persuading the general populace to keep voting for them”. 

This also comes against the backdrop of rising costs of living and the next scheduled increase of the Goods and Services Tax.

“It is critical for the party to show why and how Singapore continues to remain a good place to live as well as invest under its leadership,” said Ms Ngiow.

While the PAP believes in the efficacy of its policies, speeches by its leadership on Sunday acknowledged that it needs to work harder on its communications approach, to ensure that the public also has a good perception of its policies, said SMU’s Assoc Prof Tan.

“It’s really a (message) to the party that they need to reevaluate … how they want to get the party’s platform across in a more accessible way, and in a way that inspires trust and confidence,” he said.

RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -

Most Popular