SINGAPORE: Singapore's fourth-generation (4G) team needs a "little longer" to choose the country's next leader, but the decision will come well before the next elections, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Nov 28).
"As the situation stabilises, settling on my successor will be an important matter which cannot be put off indefinitely," said Mr Lee, addressing party activists at the Suntec Convention Centre during the People's Action Party (PAP) Convention 2021.
"The 4G team will need a little longer to make a decision. But I am confident that they will settle it well before the next General Election comes around."
The candidate to succeed Mr Lee, 69, has been up in the air since Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat stepped aside as the leader of the PAP 4G team in April.
Mr Heng, 60, cited his age as the reason and said he would have "too short a runway" should he become Prime Minister after the pandemic.
Mr Lee, the PAP secretary-general, had intended to step down when he reached 70 years old but said that he will stay on due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a General Election held in 2020, Singapore needs to hold its next polls by August 2025.
Mr Lee said that it hopes to find among party activists "many promising ones to field as candidates in future elections".
"We are already expanding our touchpoints and starting our recruitment process. We have many 'tea sessions' lined up – which is an encouraging sign," he said.
"We need renewal not only amongst MPs or branch secretaries, but also ministers and the Prime Minister too."
Mr Lee said that the 4G leaders have been relooking the issue of succession.
"They have said this before, and I repeat what they say: It is not about selecting a 'boss' or the 'winner of a race'. It's not a reality show, it's deadly serious - life and death decisions for Singaporeans.
"It's about developing a strong team and settling among themselves a primus inter pares – a first amongst equals, one who can bring others together and bring out the best from every member of the team," he said.
"COVID-19 has been a stern test for the 4G. It's tested their resolve, both individually and collectively."
He said that the whole team deserves "a lot of credit for managing the COVID-19 situation".
"This is a leadership team that Singapore can depend on and trust, in good times and tough times."