Singapore GE2020: Lee Hsien Yang says he chose not to stand for political office

Mr Lee Hsien Yang (at right) with three members of the PSP's Tanjong Pagar GRC team - (from left) Mr Michael Chua, Mr Abas Kasmani and Mr Harish Pillay - at a coffee shop near the nomination centre for Tanjong Pagar GRC yesterday morning. ST PHOTO: G
Mr Lee Hsien Yang (at right) with three members of the PSP's Tanjong Pagar GRC team - (from left) Mr Michael Chua, Mr Abas Kasmani and Mr Harish Pillay - at a coffee shop near the nomination centre for Tanjong Pagar GRC yesterday morning. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Despite actively campaigning in Tanjong Pagar GRC over the past week and refusing to rule out the possibility of contesting the election, Mr Lee Hsien Yang will not be on the ballot for the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on July 10.

Mr Lee, 62, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, turned up yesterday morning at a coffee shop near the nomination centre for Tanjong Pagar GRC wearing a PSP polo shirt, but he did not walk into the centre.

He remained coy about his possible candidacy until the very last minute, telling reporters: "I'm here with friends."

PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock later said that he never asked Mr Lee to run as a candidate.

"I wanted him to be as neutral as possible," he said.

In a Facebook post later, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said that although he grew up in a family at the centre of Singapore politics, political leadership here "needs to be much more than about one family or one man".

"I have chosen not to stand for political office because I believe Singapore does not need another Lee.

"The empirical evidence shows that dynastic politics causes bad government. When people enter politics on the back of the family name, they are often evaluated based on their parents and not their performance," he wrote. "This unfair advantage undermines meritocracy. How can we expect politicians to hold each other to account, if they are blood relations?"

He said he is interested in politics and "involved through speaking up, by supporting candidates and parties I believe in, by contributing my time, ideas and resources to causes I support, and by seeking an open and independent media".

When Mr Lee was first introduced as a PSP member at Tiong Bahru Market last week, Dr Tan said that Mr Lee could help the party in various ways.

"He is not just an ordinary person. His father is the founder of Singapore, you know, so that's very important. And the fact (that) he has decided to join us is a clear indication that the current (Government) didn't follow what his dad wanted."

 
 
 

But when asked about Mr Lee's possible candidacy, Dr Tan said at the time: "I'm not confirming... Don't worry. In politics, we know when to make our move. Timing is important."

Yesterday, after it was clear that Mr Lee would not be a candidate, Dr Tan said he never teased voters about the possibility.

"I never tease. If the voters feel teased, it's their problem," he said. "You asked me a political question, I gave you a political answer."

PM Lee, when asked on Tuesday if his brother will have a sway over voters, told reporters that Mr Lee is "entitled to speak like anybody else".

"With social media, you can have five, six million voices on the Internet. The public will assess which ones are worth listening to, which ones make sense," said PM Lee.

Associate Professor Terence Lee, from the National University of Singapore's political science department, explained that Mr Lee was more effective as a non-candidate for the party, and that teasing about the possibility of his candidacy was a sideshow.

 
 

"Lee Hsien Yang's decision not to stand as a candidate focuses the attention back on Dr Tan Cheng Bock and the PSP," said Prof Lee.

Dr Felix Tan, associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, added: "Some voters will probably feel betrayed by the PSP that it has misled them to believe that Lee Hsien Yang will be standing for election. His persona was hyped up unnecessarily over the last couple of days."

He said such tactics are "rather disingenuous" and voters have the right to feel aggrieved over this.

He added, however, that the PSP's tactic was strategic as it would have kept the PAP on its toes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2020, with the headline 'Lee Hsien Yang says he chose not to stand for political office'. Print Edition | Subscribe