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Singapore

PAP elects top decision-making body, Gan Kim Yong steps down as chairman

02:44 Min
The People's Action Party (PAP) elected its 37th Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Sunday (Nov 6) at the party's conference. Sherlyn Seah has the details.

SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party (PAP) elected its 37th Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Sunday (Nov 6) at the party's conference.

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong did not run for re-election after announcing he was stepping down as chairman. His successor has not been announced.

The 12 members re-elected to the CEC were:

  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat
  • Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing
  • Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli
  • Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam
  • Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu
  • Minister for National Development Desmond Lee
  • Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah
  • Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan
  • Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin

Other members co-opted into the CEC were:

  • Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo
  • Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong

Voting for the PAP's CEC is held during the party's conference once every two years. This year, more than 3,000 party cadres gathered for the conference at the Resorts World Sentosa Convention Centre.

"It's a good line-up of diverse ministers with different experiences, of young, of seniors," PAP Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng told reporters after the CEC was unveiled.

MP Tin Pei Ling said the line-up represented "the mandates that the party cadre members have given to them, as a show of confidence in them leading the party forward".

The absence of new faces in the CEC indicates that Singapore's ruling party is “comfortable with continuity, rather than change” at the moment, said Associate Professor Eugene Tan from the Singapore Management University.

Dr Felix Tan, a political analyst from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), agreed, commenting that the results reflect a sense of stability within the PAP’s leadership ranks after Mr Wong's confirmation as leader of the party’s fourth-generation team.

“What this means is that there’ll be a rally around Deputy Prime Minister Wong, instead of seeking another huge change,” he added.

“We will also likely see more prominence of Mr Wong in the coming months, especially in the implementation of government policies and the direction that the government will likely take for the coming years.”

Mr Wong is widely expected to be appointed as the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general, taking over from Mr Heng, when the party announces its slate of CEC office-holders in the coming weeks.

When Mr Heng assumed the role in 2018, it was seen as an indication that he was the frontrunner to be Singapore's next Prime Minister.

Assoc Prof Tan said the PAP is likely to continue having a second assistant secretary-general, and that Mr Chan could be reappointed to the role. There may even be a third assistant secretary-general, the law don suggested.

Dr Gillian Koh, deputy director of research at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), said she was surprised to see Manpower Minister and Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng missing from the CEC line-up.

“We will see if Dr Tan and Mr Ng Chee Meng, the NTUC secretary-general, (are) co-opted into the CEC,” she added.

As for who would take over from Mr Gan as party chairman, Assoc Prof Tan named Mr Masagos - who is the outgoing vice-chair - and Mr Shanmugam - one of the two remaining 3G leaders on the CEC - as likely candidates.

“In either case, the ruling party will seek to burnish its multi-racial credentials,” he said.

Dr Koh also described PM Lee and Mr Wong's speeches at the conference as “strong rallying calls to the party faithful to take the political opposition seriously and that it is especially important to discern (the opposition's) tactics and narratives”.

“It means that the party faithful should be clear about what they believe and not take the PAP’s position for granted,” she added.

She said the Prime Minister and PAP chief was “much sharper” in branding the opposition as “AWOL” (absent without leave) in terms of their arguments, even if not “AWOL” in Parliament or voters’ minds.

Assoc Prof Tan said the mood appeared to be that of “cautious optimism” as Singapore moves towards living with COVID-19.

“Mr Lee and Mr Wong are rallying the party faithful to work the ground as political competition and contestation become keener with the desire for more political diversity,” he added.

NTU's Dr Tan said both leaders’ speeches reflected sentiments on the ground about the PAP. Both PM Lee and Mr Wong would not want to be overly confident about their chances in any election either, said Dr Tan.

“This is especially so (as) over the years, there seems to be a drop in support for the PAP, not least propelled by changing social dynamics amongst younger voters,” Dr Tan said.

He said it would likely take “two to three years” before the next General Election is called.

Assoc Prof Tan also said a 2023 election would be unlikely, given that the presidential election would likely take place in September next year.

“But it is clear that the party has its work cut out for it and time is of the essence to identify the 5G candidates for Parliament."

Source: CNA/cy(ac)(jo)

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