Singapore finmin gets key party role, seen as PM-in-waiting

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SINGAPORE, April 14 (Reuters) - Singapore's finance minister, Lawrence Wong, has been chosen as leader of the ruling People's Action Party's so-called fourth generation (4G) team, paving the way for him to potentially become the city-state's next prime minister.

"This decision is a crucial one for Singapore. It will ensure the continuity and stability of leadership that are the hallmarks of our system," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday in a social media post, adding that he would also make adjustments to the cabinet.

Stability has long been one of wealthy Singapore's major strengths, making it a haven for investors and businesses in a region where political upheaval is not uncommon.

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Wong, 49, who helped steer Singapore through the COVID-19 pandemic in his role as co-chair in the government's taskforce, had been tipped by analysts as a potential successor to Lee, 70.

Leadership succession in the Southeast Asian city-state - which has been governed by the People's Action Party (PAP) since 1965 - is normally a carefully planned affair.

But an unexpected decision last year by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat to step aside as the designated successor to Lee disrupted leadership planning.

4G refers to the ruling party's so-called fourth generation team of younger leaders, who had to choose a replacement for Heng from among themselves.

Lee, who had previously dropped a plan to retire by 70 to see Singapore through the pandemic, had said he would remain until his successor was chosen.

"Wong is the PM-designate to all intents and purposes," said Eugene Tan, a law professor at the Singapore Management University and an expert on Singapore politics. "I believe the PAP had also considered who they think could be the face of the party in the next few general elections," he said.

In the 2020 general election, the PAP won all but ten of 93 seats in parliament and 61% of the popular vote - a landslide by international standards - but its share of the vote dropped nine points from the last election in 2015.

The next general election is due by end-2025.

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Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Chizu Nomiyama

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