Singapore PM's brother backs his rival as polls loom

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Lee Hsien Yang posted on Facebook that Tan Cheng Bock was 'the leader Singapore deserves'

The estranged brother of Singapore's prime minister on Thursday backed a former ruling party stalwart who is seeking to form a new opposition party, describing him as "the leader Singapore deserves".

Lee Hsien Yang has been locked in an acrimonious feud with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the fate of a family house since the death in 2015 of their father, Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew.

Last week Tan Cheng Bock, a former ruling party MP and ex-presidential candidate, announced he was seeking to register a new political party -- a move analysts said could revitalise the country's weak and disunited opposition.

Singapore must hold elections by 2021 but speculation is mounting they could come later this year, with the long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) widely expected to win.

In a post on Facebook, Lee Hsien Yang congratulated Tan, who narrowly lost the 2011 presidential election to the ruling party's de facto candidate, and his new group, the Progress Singapore Party.

"I have known Cheng Bock for many years and he has consistently put the interests of the people first. We are fortunate that he has stepped forward to serve Singapore," he said.

"This is good for the future of Singapore. Cheng Bock is the leader Singapore deserves."

Backing from a senior member of the Lee family could provide a boost to Tan. In November, a photo of Lee Hsien Yang having breakfast with Tan went viral and sparked speculation that the pair were planning a political move ahead of the polls.

Tan has applied to register his new party, but authorities have not yet announced whether they will approve it.

Singapore's opposition has long been fragmented, with several groups trying with little success to make major gains against the ruling party, which has the vast majority of seats in parliament.

Under the PAP, Singapore has become one of the world's wealthiest societies and the party still enjoys solid support.

But critics accuse them of tactics such as gerrymandering and seeking to bankrupt opponents through civil lawsuits to maintain their hold on power.