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From 1G to 4G through the years: A look at how PAP selects its leaders

From 1G to 4G through the years: A look at how PAP selects its leaders
Mr Lee Kuan Yew (right) and Mr Goh Chok Tong at a post-General Election press conference on Sept 3, 1988.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (April 16) revealed details of how Mr Lawrence Wong was chosen as the People’s Action Party’s fourth-generation (4G) leader, and how it differed from the past.

Here’s a look at how the party’s past successions were decided, based on what was revealed on Saturday and in earlier reports.

From 1G to 2G

  • In 1984 after the general election that year, then Minister for Defence and Second Minister for Health Goh Chok Tong was chosen by his peers to lead the PAP’s second-generation team at an informal meeting. A small group of about six ministers had met and made the decision. Mr Goh was made First Deputy Prime Minister in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Cabinet in 1985.
  • He took over as Prime Minister on Nov 28, 1990. On the same day, Mr Lee Hsien Loong was appointed DPM alongside Mr Ong Teng Cheong.

From 2G to 3G

Mr Lee Hsien Loong (centre) at his swearing-in as PM with Mr Goh Chok Tong (left) and then president S R Nathan on Aug 12, 2004. PHOTO: ST FILE
  • In the middle of 2004, a group of ministers decided on then DPM Lee Hsien Loong as the third-generation leader.
  • This decision was made at a lunch hosted by then Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng. The ministers came to a conclusion quickly as they felt that it was a straightforward matter.
  • On August 12, 2004, then DPM Lee took over as Prime Minister from Mr Goh.
  • On Saturday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “I was very moved that everybody felt that it was a straightforward matter, and then we came to a conclusion very quickly.”

From 3G to 4G

PM Lee with then Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (right) and then National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at an event in Gardens by the Bay in March 2016. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
  • On Nov 23, 2018, 32 members of the PAP’s 4G team issued a statement that they had come to a consensus on then Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as their leader.
  • After the ministers had decided on him, he talked to the ministers of state and other office-holders to get their support before going to the caucus of PAP MPs.
  • Mr Heng also asked for then Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing to be his deputy.
  • Earlier that day, the PAP had named Mr Heng as its first assistant secretary-general and Mr Chan as its second assistant secretary-general.
  • Mr Heng was made DPM in May 2019.


  • Towards the end of 2021, PM Lee decided that there should be a more systematic and thorough way to choose the 4G leader. He asked retired minister Khaw Boon Wan, a former PAP chairman, to lead the process.
  • After the Budget debate ended in March, Mr Khaw took a month to speak to all the stakeholders individually. The views of all the Cabinet ministers - save for PM Lee and Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam - were sought, as well as that of NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, who were former 4G ministers.
  • The 19 stakeholders had to state their preferred choice, other than themselves.
  • Of the 19, 15 chose Mr Lawrence Wong to lead.
  • Mr Khaw presented the results to the Cabinet, and Mr Wong was then unanimously endorsed first by the Cabinet, including PM Lee and the Senior Ministers, then all PAP MPs.


This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.

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