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Son of Singapore's Founder Named Next Prime Minister - 2004-07-18


Singapore has officially announced that Lee Hsien Loong, son of the city-state's founding father, will assume the post of prime minister next month. The government declaration, barely half a page long, made official on Saturday what most people in Singapore have long expected, 52-year old Lee Hsien Loong will be the next prime minister of the city-state his father helped found in 1965.

Mr. Lee's father, Lee Kwan Yew, ruled Singapore from 1965 until 1990. Under the famous autocrat, Singaporeans had only limited civil liberties, but their standard of living soared and Lee Kwan Yew remains a popular and powerful figure.

Professor Reuben Wong of the National University in Singapore says his son will have to create his own style of leadership.

"He will be almost as tough as his dad, but the population has changed, this country has changed and the electorate is not going to take another Lee Kwan Yew," he said. "This won't be Lee Kwan Yew Part Two."

Mr. Lee will take over on August 12. He replaces Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who held power for nearly 14 years and will stay on as a member of the new cabinet.

Critics accuse Lee Kwan Yew of nepotism by giving the government's top job to his son.

But Professor Wong says Lee Hsien Loong has enough popular support to weather the charges.

"He's got the legitimacy, he's been in government for 20 years now," he added. "He's had a lot of practice in different portfolios. He's got the support of the cabinet, of the party, as well as the people."

Mr. Lee now heads the Finance Ministry and the central bank, while his father acts as Singapore's senior minister. Neither has said if they will give up these posts after Lee Hsien Loong takes office.

In the past year the younger Mr. Lee has promised to ease restrictions on political opposition and encourage a more open administration. But he has also threatened to "demolish" political opponents should they undermine his government.

Mr. Lee's selection as the next prime minister received the unanimous backing of the governing People's Action Party. The PAP controls 82 of parliament's 84 elected seats.

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