Elections will be called when the timing is right: PM

Elections will be called when the timing is right: PM

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that he would consider a range of factors in deciding when to call the next General Election (GE).

These include local issues, the state of preparation of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), and global developments.

"If a major crisis is coming up then we have to clear that... It also depends on other agenda (items) which we are busy with," he said.

There will also be the SG50 celebrations next year to mark Singapore's Golden Jubilee of Independence.

"We will have to take all this into account and make soundings and choose the right moment, not necessarily when everybody is expecting it," he added, in remarks that suggest the polls may not be round the corner yet.

Mr Lee, the PAP secretary- general, was responding to questions from Singapore reporters at the end of his trip to attend the ASEAN-Republic of Korea commemorative summit here, a week after his remarks at the PAP rally on Sunday prompted speculation that a GE could be called soon.

But his remarks yesterday indicated that the PAP is still midway through its preparations.

"We always find the best moment to call the election but, as I said, it is not due till January 2017," he said.

"It's two years and a bit at the maximum, and we're working hard preparing for it. When we're ready we will call (it), as soon as we're ready," he added.

Mr Lee said PAP members were in good spirits, with old stalwarts "still as determined to fight as ever", and many younger members who have decided to participate.

"If you want Singapore to do well, you have to do something about it... not just typing on a feedback forum or some blog, but... making things happen. I think we have that spirit in the party."

Mr Lee also said party activists were doing more to reach out to groups that did not take part in traditional grassroots activities.

He cited how in recent years, they had been meeting people from animal welfare, environmental and arts groups "much more than before".

"We have to be there with all these different groups and connecting with them in their language on issues which are important to them."

Many MPs and ministers are also engaging different segments of the community, he added, citing clan and Chinese cultural groups. "Our society is strong when you have criss-crossing, overlapping networks; somehow or other you are part of this community and part of Singapore," he said.

As for who will be the next chief of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Mr Lee said it would be made known "before the end of next year".

NTUC chief Lim Swee Say has said that he will step down as labour chief when he turns 62, which will be in July 2016.

Mr Lim, however, added that he would continue as an MP of East Coast GRC and wanted to contest there in the next election.

PM Lee said a number of young ministers have been involved with the NTUC, getting an understanding of the union movement and how important it was.

Citing four Cabinet ministers - Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Mr Heng Swee Keat and Mr Lawrence Wong - he said they have kept up their ties with the labour movement.

"We have some ideas on developing and strengthening NTUC, and you will know within a few months," he added.

Speaking to Singapore media, PM Lee also touched on talks for an air services agreement between Singapore and South Korea.

There has been no breakthrough in the talks, he said.

yuenc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 13, 2014.
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