Singapore’s Longtime Prime Minister to Transfer Power, Successor to Assume Role in May

Singapore will soon get its fourth Prime Minister—and only the second outside of its founding family that has led the country for a combined more than 50 years since the city-state gained its independence in the 1960s. 

Prime Minister , 72, who has held the position since 2004, will relinquish his office on May 15, and 51-year-old —currently deputy prime minister and finance minister—will be sworn in as the country’s next premier, according to a Monday by the Prime Minister’s Office. (Singapore elected a new last year, but the role is mostly ceremonial.)

Wong, who has long been viewed as Lee’s successor, “has the unanimous support of the PAP MPs,” the statement said, referring to the country’s ruling People’s Action Party, which has continuously dominated politics since its founding under Lee’s late father , who was the country’s first Prime Minister for 31 years before stepping down in 1990, though he remained in politics until 2011.

“For any country, a leadership transition is a significant moment. Lawrence and the 4G team have worked hard to gain the people’s trust, notably during the pandemic,” Lee posted on on Monday, referring to the so-called of PAP leaders helmed by Wong. “I ask all Singaporeans to give Lawrence and his team your full support, and work with them to create a brighter future for Singapore.”

Lee, who had previously expressed plans to step down before his 70th birthday in 2022 until they were disrupted by the pandemic, last November that he would resume his succession plans and hand over leadership to Wong before the next general election, due to take place by November this year: “Either I can continue to lead the party in the next [general election], which would be my fifth as [Prime Minister], and then hand over soon afterwards to Lawrence [Wong]; or I can hand over to Lawrence before the GE, then he leads the party into the campaign, wins his own mandate, and takes the country forward with the full backing of the nation,” Lee said during a party convention.

“Everything depends on the success of this third transition in our history,” he added.

Wong’s succession to the premiership comes as Singapore emerges from a series of recent and scandals—some of the biggest the city-state has ever seen—and as Southeast Asia continues to navigate the geopolitical rivalry between China and the U.S. . The country has also consistently ranked as the in the world to live in, though it ranks as one of , too.

“I accept this responsibility with humility and a deep sense of duty,” Wong said in a published on his Instagram on Monday. “Together, we can build a future that shines brightly for all Singaporeans.”