Possible for next GE to be brought forward: PM Lee

Possible for next GE to be brought forward: PM Lee
PM Lee Hsien Loong was asked if the bicentennial might be a reason to bring forward the general election, which must be held by January 2021.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has left the door open to calling a general election next year, as Singapore celebrates the 200th year since Sir Stamford Raffles' arrival.

He was asked by Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait last night if the bicentennial might be a reason to bring forward the general election, which must be held by January 2021.

"It's always possible," Mr Lee replied. "There are many reasons to bring elections forward for a party, so we'll see."

He was speaking at a dialogue, held as part of a welcome dinner at the inaugural Bloomberg New Economy Forum.

Mr Lee was also asked if he would recommend "politics in the modern age" to the next generation of Lees - his three sons and daughter.

He replied: "Not sure any of them have shown any interest in coming to politics. They are entitled to, but I don't think it's likely they feel the same compulsion that I did - duty that I do. They have their own responsibilities, their careers. I'm sure they'll make contributions in their own ways.

"But it would be unkind of me to add more burden on them. It's difficult enough for them as it is to carry my name."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a dialogue last night hosted by Bloomberg News' editor-in-chief John Micklethwait during a dinner for around 400 top business and thought leaders attending the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.

Last year, Mr Lee and his wife Ho Ching were publicly accused by his siblings of harbouring political ambitions for their son Li Hongyi, 31. PM Lee refuted the notion while Mr Li, who is in the public service, has said he is not interested in politics.

The uproar came in part over what to do with 38 Oxley Road, the home of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

During the question-and-answer segment of the dialogue, Mr Douglas Hsu, who chairs Taiwanese conglomerate Far Eastern Group, said 38 Oxley Road should be retained to remember the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Responding, PM Lee described the conflict with his siblings over the fate of their father's home as a "vexed issue" and said he has recused himself from all decisions on the matter.

He noted that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has said the decision on what to do with the house will be left to the government of the day, when PM Lee's younger sister Wei Ling moves out.

"One day, when she moves out, the Cabinet of the day will decide what to do, and I think it's best to leave things where they are," he said.

To this, Mr Micklethwait quipped: "Imagine the idea of the head of state (sic) recusing himself from matters concerning his own family - it'd be a strange thing to Americans."

On how social media may affect the political landscape and those who join it, Mr Lee said that social media also includes fake news, which could encourage opinions overnight that are not based on fact.

"It's ridiculous... One night you go to sleep and when you wake up, hundreds of thousands of people are agitated."

This makes it hard for the government of the day to map out long-term plans, he told the 400 business and thought leaders in attendance, and harder still to convince the populace of those plans.

"It's harder for people to focus on the long term and believe you have a workable scheme to get from here to there, because every day you are chasing a new rabbit."

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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