Despite most Singaporeans being ready for a minority Prime Minister (PM), the older generation is much less accepting.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat pointed out that observation during a forum at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on March 28.
In a Facebook poll made by user Mark Rozells, an overwhelming majority of netizens voted their preference for Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Tharman Shanmugaratnam over Heng Swee Keat (who is widely considered to be the next PM).
92% of 19,900 individuals showed their support for DPM Tharman, clearly indicating their readiness for a minority government.
Notably, it is mostly the middle-aged and youth who use platforms such as Facebook, whereas the ‘older generation’ that Heng Swee Keat was referring to are largely not users of such platforms. Hence, this poll may not be 100% accurate.
Nonetheless, it was a tongue-in-cheek clapback by Singaporeans, showing their egalitarianism and openness towards minority leadership.
Moreover, DPM Tharman has garnered the favour of many Singaporeans. Although not in consideration to be PM Lee Hsien Loong’s successor, he is a popular choice among Singaporeans.
He has done well at elections, his team in Jurong GRC receiving 79.28 percent of votes during the 2015 General Election.
A survey conducted by market research consultancy Blackbox in 2016 found that Mr Tharman was the top choice among Singaporeans to succeed Mr Lee, with 69 per cent of almost 900 respondents indicating that they would support him to be the candidate for prime minister.
“Is it Singapore who is not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister, or is it the PAP (the ruling People’s Action Party) who is not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister?” NTU Assistant Professor Walid asked during the forum.
He also posed the question: is the Government sending out contradictory messages by reserving the 2017 Presidential Election for candidates from the Malay community, but simultaneously stating that Singapore is not ready for a prime minister from a minority race?
Mr Heng stressed that it was “not contradictory”.
“It is precisely because we need to place this emphasis institutionally that we recognise that we have not arrived. It is important for us to ensure that we have that safeguard.”