Lee Calls for Singaporeans’ Support as ‘Tough’ Election Looms

Michelle Jamrisko

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s leaders need strong backing from voters to weather uncertain times, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as he called on members of the ruling party to prepare for a “tough fight” at the next general election.

Speaking at the People’s Action Party convention, Lee pointed to some economies around the world where public faith in governments has eroded, and both traditional and socialist parties have been weakened, the Straits Times reported. Populist movements may have upended the status quo but aren’t always able to offer something better, CNA cited Lee as saying.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world, a lot is at stake,” Lee, 67, said in video snippets of his speech posted on CNA’s website. “This election is not just about the PAP doing a bit better or a bit worse, this election will decide if Singapore can sustain good and stable government, to be different from other countries for a long time to come.”

In Hong Kong and Chile, protests illustrate how the people have lost faith in institutions, while Singapore has enjoyed relative peace, Lee was cited as saying at the gathering on Sunday.

“There’s a lot that we can lose too if politics turns unstable, or becomes dysfunctional,” Lee, who is also PAP’s secretary-general, said. “We must make sure that our system always works for ordinary Singaporeans.”

Singapore’s next general election must be held by April 2021, though the ruling party has called for early polls in recent cycles. The election is widely seen as Lee’s last as he has vowed to hand over the reins by the time he turns 70 in 2022.

The PAP last year picked Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as Lee’s de facto successor, kicking off only the third leadership transition in Singapore’s 54-year history.

“We must prepare for a tough fight at the next general election,” Lee said. “Our government policies must emphasize the needs of the people and deliver results for them. So we are strengthening social safety nets to support the most vulnerable and those who need extra help.”

Lee also reiterated his worry that the pressure on Singapore to choose sides between the U.S. and China will increase, and that the city state retains its own principles that sometimes don’t align with either of the world’s two biggest economies, the Straits Times reported.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Jamrisko in Singapore at mjamrisko@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, David Watkins

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