By Paloma Almoguera
Singapore, Apr 15 (EFE).- Singaporean Finance Minister Lawrence Wong has been chosen to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after being elected leader of a new generation of politicians from the ruling party in the country, which is struggling to remain a global financial center amid Covid-19 disruptions.
Lee Hsien Loong, son of Singapore’s late founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed the island into one of the world’s most prosperous countries, made the announcement Thursday night.
“This decision on succession is a crucial one for Singapore. It will ensure the continuity and stability of leadership that are the hallmarks of our system” Lee said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
The prime minister has held power since 2004 and turned 70 this year, the age he had declared he planned to step down.He said Wong, 49, had been elected leader of the so-called “fourth generation” of the People’s Action Party – which has ruled Singapore since its independence in 1965 – with an “overwhelming majority” by the group of ministers.
The ministerial decision, taken Thursday behind closed doors, was endorsed by party lawmakers later in the day, making Wong the most likely successor to the prime minister in the 2025 elections.
Those polls will mark the end of the “Lee” era as there were no more members of that lineage in the political front line.
“The right to lead cannot be inherited,” said Lee, who has not enjoyed the same popularity as his father and has governed following the model of semi-authoritarian capitalism established by him.
“Singapore will always need a strong team in charge,” he added.
Wong would be the fourth leader in the history of the country and only the second outside to the Lee dynasty, after Goh Chok Tong, in office between 1990 and 2004.
Wong, one of the most visible faces of the Covid-19 task force, was competing for the new position with his contemporaries, the Health and Education Ministers Ong Ye Kung and Chan Chun Sing respectively.
The finance minister will have to reconnect with Singaporeans – for which he opened a Tik Tok account this week – in contrast to the hieratic style that usually characterizes the politicians of the city-state.
The party lost a record number of seats in the 2020 elections to the opposition Workers Party.
The disappointing outcome of the elections, marked by the economic crisis sparked by the pandemic and a renewed anti-immigration sentiment in the country, led Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, the designated successor to Lee until then, to step down as the party’s fourth-generation team.
Wong faces the challenge of maintaining the status of Singapore – of 5.7 million people, of which 1.2 million are immigrants – as a regional financial center and home to headquarters of multinational companies, while handling the demands of the local population, which is asking for more access to the most competitive positions in the job market.
“It is my privilege to be called upon to lead this team,” Wong said on Facebook after the announcement.
He added that he would “strive to earn the trust and support of each and every one of our fellow citizens.” EFE