Singapore, Jun 6 (EFE).- The Singapore government announced the appointment of Finance Minister Lawrence Wong as deputy prime minister on Monday, paving the way for him to succeed prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Wong, 49, will take office on June 13, and will retain the title of finance minister, the semi-autocratic city-state’s prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Wong’s appointment as deputy prime minister comes barely two months after he was elected to lead the new generation of politicians from the People’s Action Party (PAP) — which has ruled the island since its independence from Malaysia in 1965 — a move which was interpreted as a sign that he was the preferred candidate to succeed Lee.
In a comment on his Facebook account, Lee Hsien Loong, son of Singapore’s so-called “founding father” Lee Kuan Yew, who ruled with an iron fist and transformed what was largely a fishing island into a modern country, called on Singaporeans to give their “full support to this important transition, to steer Singapore safely out of the pandemic and into a brighter future.”
The prime minister, who has been in power since 2004 and who turned 70 this year, the age he had set for retirement, appears to be pinning his hopes on Wong ahead of the 2025 elections, which will look likely to mark the end of the “Lee” era, as no more members of that dynasty remain on the political frontline.
Wong takes over as deputy PM from Heng Swee Keat, who fell out of favor after the PAP lost a record number of seats to the opposition Workers’ Party in the 2020 elections.
Should he become the next prime minister, Wong would be only the fourth leader in the history of the Southeast Asian country and only the second not from the Lee clan, after Goh Chok Tong who ruled between 1990 and 2004.
The future generation of island leaders faces the challenge of preserving the role of Singapore — which is home to 5.7 million inhabitants, including 1.2 million who are immigrants — as a regional financial center amid geopolitical tensions and the growing demands of the local population for greater access to the labor market. EFE