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GE2020 results not a factor in decision to step aside as 4G team leader: DPM Heng

SINGAPORE — The results of last year’s General Election (GE) are not among the reasons why he has decided to take himself out of the running as Singapore’s next prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Thursday (April 8).

GE2020 results not a factor in decision to step aside as 4G team leader: DPM Heng

When Singapore went to the polls in July 2020, the People's Action Party made a surprise decision to redeploy Mr Heng Swee Keat (pictured) to East Coast Group Representation Constituency from his former Tampines stronghold.

  • DPM Heng Swee Keat said his constituency’s GE2020 results was not a factor influencing his decision to step aside as 4G leader
  • The election results, he added, is “for others to judge”
  • Stressing that he is 60 this year, he said it is in Singapore’s best interest to have a younger leader to take over in a post-pandemic world

 

SINGAPORE — The results of last year’s General Election (GE) are not among the reasons why he has decided to take himself out of the running as Singapore’s next prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Thursday (April 8).

Mr Heng, who was deployed to helm the People’s Action Party (PAP) team contesting East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in GE2020, said that his decision to step aside was based on the fact that he is 60 this year.

It is in the country’s best interest to have a younger leader with a “longer runway”, who would have to tackle vastly different challenges in a post-Covid-19 world, he said.

Mr Heng, who also announced on Thursday that he will relinquish his role as finance minister, was speaking at a press conference on his move.

When Singapore went to the polls in July last year, PAP made a surprise decision to redeploy Mr Heng to East Coast GRC from his former Tampines GRC stronghold. His team won 53.39 per cent of the vote against the Workers’ Party, down from its 60.73 per cent victory in GE2015.

Overall, PAP won 61.24 per cent of the votes in GE2020.

On Thursday, Mr Heng was asked if the outcome of the election was one of the reasons behind his decision to step down as the 4G leader.

“The results in the GE2020 performance, in particular, in East Coast GRC, is not the reason why I decided to step aside,” he replied.

He noted that East Coast GRC was new ground for him, after having spent 10 years as a Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC.

He did his best during the election campaign, he added, and said that he has met East Coast residents who told him that they changed their mind and decided to vote for PAP when he was redeployed to their constituency.

The election results, he added, are “not for me to judge, but for others to judge”.

“But my decision is, as I have emphasised, that I am 60 this year, and the Covid-19 situation has disrupted all our plans. I am very glad that (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) is continuing to stay on, to see Singapore through this crisis,” he said.

“(But it would mean) that by the time I take over. I will be in my mid-60s and the runway is really too short.”

He said that the world will have changed a lot after Covid-19.

“We need someone who is younger, with a longer runway to not think in just one or two election terms, but think about the long-term future of Singapore and of Singaporeans,” he said.

“It is better for someone younger with a longer runway and the support of people to take Singapore through this next phase of our nation-building.”

It would also be good for this person to “come with a fresh mind and greater vitality” to deal with the challenges ahead, he added.

Mr Heng said that while he is in good health today, the top job would impose “exceptional demands on the officeholder”, and such demands will be even more exacting in a post-Covid world.

He was pressed on why he cited age and health as factors for his decision to step aside, when he had given the assurance in 2018 — when he was appointed PAP’s first assistant secretary-general — that he had fully recovered from the stroke he suffered in 2016.

To that, Mr Heng said that he had considered his experience working with the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as well as former Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He said, for example, that when he was Lee Kuan Yew’s principal personal secretary, he noticed that even though the elder Lee was extremely careful with his health, he had from time to time remarked to Mr Heng that “it is different when you are older”. 

“The 60s can be a very productive time of life for most of us, but I think the top job imposes exceptional demands on the office holder, and having thought about it very carefully, having discussed it with my family, I thought it is better that I step aside.”

Related topics

Singapore politics Heng Swee Keat 4G leadership GE2020 East Coast GRC

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