Three times as many Singaporeans prefer Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat over Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing as the country’s next prime minister, according to a survey commissioned by Yahoo News Singapore.
The survey of 916 citizens conducted by market research consultancy Blackbox Research shows that 75 per cent of respondents said they preferred Heng, while 25 per cent said they preferred Chan.
Heng, 57, was appointed as the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) first assistant secretary general, after a meeting of the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) on 23 November last year. Chan, 49, was also appointed as the PAP’s second assistant secretary general at the meeting.
Following the appointments, Heng is now considered the leading candidate to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who turns 67 in February.
Speaking to Singapore media on 1 December 2018 on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires, Lee said the 4G ministers have decided Heng is their leader, and PAP MPs have also endorsed the decision. Lee, however, didn’t confirm to the reporters that Heng would take over his post.
But in a statement to The Economist more than two weeks later, Singapore’s High Commissioner to the UK Foo Chi Hsia made the first explicit official acknowledgement that Heng will be the country’s next leader.
Foo said in the statement on 18 December 2018, “The ruling party has indeed settled on Heng Swee Keat as its next leader… Provided the party wins the people’s support in the next general election, due by April 2021, Mr Heng will take over from Lee Hsien Loong as prime minister.”
The majority of those polled in the Blackbox survey – 62 per cent – said they were happy with either Heng or Chan as the next prime minister.
Just 38 per cent said they would prefer someone else.
On their impressions of the two men, 60 per cent of respondents said they viewed Heng positively. In comparison, 44 per cent of them had either a “quite positive” or a “very positive” impression of Chan.
Just 17 per cent had a negative view of Heng, while 27 per cent had a “quite negative” or “very negative” impression of Chan.
About a quarter of respondents had no opinions of Heng and Chan, at 22 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively.
The Blackbox survey was conducted from 14 to 26 December last year. Those aged 50 and above accounted for 40 per cent of the respondents, 28 per cent came from the 35 to 49 age category, and 24 per cent were from the 25 to 34 age group. Those in the 15 to 24 age group comprised 8 per cent of the respondents.
The poll also addressed further questions about Heng, as well as the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew. Yahoo News Singapore will release the findings over several days.