Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday he would “decide later” when to hand power to his newly named heir apparent Lawrence Wong, noting that the timing of a general election due by 2025 will be a factor in how the leadership transition takes place. Speaking to local media two days after his ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) signalled Finance Minister Wong would be its next leader – and consequently Singapore ’s next prime minister – Lee said the transition would be done “carefully and deliberately”. “I will discuss with Lawrence, and we will decide later, what the best strategy is for us to fight the next general election – whether it is for me to hand over to him first, he consolidates, he leads into the next election of the 4G team … or I go into the next election leading the PAP, fight the next election, and if we win, after that Lawrence takes over,” Lee said, according to a transcript of his remarks at the press conference. “It will depend on how things evolve and is something which we will decide later on. Either way, our plan is for Lawrence to be the next PM, if the PAP wins the next [general election].” Singapore’s PM-in-waiting: what you need to know Lee, in power since 2004 after taking over from Goh Chok Tong – the successor of his father and Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew – has helmed the PAP in four general elections. The PAP has governed the island nation without interruption since 1959, and while the 2020 polls saw its vote share slip to one of the lowest levels in decades, the consensus among observers is that it is unlikely to lose power any time soon. The city state’s opposition parties remain small in scale compared to the PAP, and are encumbered by various factors including poor funding, disunity and what analysts say are barriers to a fair contest. The Workers’ Party, which has nine MPs in a legislature comprising 93 elected lawmakers, is the second most influential political party after the PAP. It is currently beset by an internal scandal, with its leader Pritam Singh facing a possible criminal probe for alleged perjury. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Lee Hsien Loong (@leehsienloong) In the press conference, however, Lee and Wong sought to emphasise that continued PAP rule and Wong’s ascension as the next prime minister was not to be taken for granted. “I am under no illusions about the demands of the job,” Wong said. “It will get more challenging with greater political contestation and a growing desire for diversity in parliament,” the finance chief, 49, added. “And as the prime minister said in parliament recently, we do not assume that the PAP will win the next general election”. Asked about the prospects of fresh polls being held “one year from now” – well ahead of the 2025 deadline – Wong said his priority for now was to “consolidate, to discuss with the team to see what next steps we might take”. “I am fully aware that the prime minister would like to handover to me as soon as I am ready. He has said this to you,” Wong said. “I will certainly let the prime minister know when I am ready, and I am also very sure that before too long, he will be reminding me and chasing me for a response. I will do so in due course.” Wong added that his team would “work hard to fight for the privilege to serve the people of Singapore in government”. Singapore opposition chief rejects perjury claim as PM slams ‘lack of shame’ Lee on Saturday also outlined the process by which Wong was picked as the leader of the PAP’s so-called “4G” or fourth-generation team, a status that effectively makes him its leader-in-waiting. Lee, 70, touched on how he tapped on party elder Khaw Boon Wan, a former senior cabinet minister – also present at the press conference – to interview 19 “stakeholders” individually to ascertain who they backed. Khaw said to the question of “who will they choose as their leader based on their overall assessment, bearing in mind the need for the leader to bring others together, and to win elections”, 15 out of these 19 people picked Wong. This was an “overwhelming majority of 79 per cent, way above the traditional supermajority benchmark of two-thirds,” Khaw said. The depth of detail revealed about the selection process was a departure from the PAP’s usual practice of keeping the matter under close wraps. Party sources had previously told This Week in Asia that the 4G group had been unable to forge a consensus about who to pick as its leader among Wong and two other candidates, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. Khaw did not reveal who else was in contention but said “none of the other names garnered more than two votes”. He said: “Now that we have a clear outcome, there is really no need for me to discuss who was the second or the third choice.” As to who would be made deputy prime minister under Wong, Lee said he would leave that decision to the younger leader as the just-completed selection process was solely focused on picking the leader of the PAP’s 4G team. As Singapore’s PM Lee turns 70, no clear successor is in sight Wong was a high-flying bureaucrat before his entry into politics in 2011, and had served as principal private secretary to Lee from 2005 to 2008. He also held roles as the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and then as Minister of National Development between 2012 and 2020. After the 2020 poll – held amid the pandemic – Lee made Wong the Education Minister. Subsequently, with Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s decision to step aside last year, the senior Lee lieutenant’s finance portfolio was given to Wong. Lee and his predecessor Goh both served as the country’s finance chief before taking on the top political job.