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More Singaporeans are ready for ethnic minority PM, survey finds

Office workers go for lunch at the central business district on the first day free of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Singapore, April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Edgar Su
FILE: Office workers go for lunch at the central business district on the first day free of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Singapore, April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Edgar Su

By Niluksi Koswanage

(Bloomberg) — Singaporeans are ready to accept a prime minister from the minority community, a new survey showed, nearly two weeks after the Southeast Asian nation picked an ethnic Indian as its head of state.

More than three in five Singaporeans told polling company YouGov Plc that they are ready for an Indian or Malay prime minister, according to the survey published Wednesday. Younger Singaporeans were more in favour of a qualified, ethnic minority premier compared to the older generation of citizens, the findings showed.

The results reflect a growing acceptance of giving minority leaders an opportunity to lead the Southeast Asian nation, made up mostly of Chinese with a sizable Indian and Malay population. Three prime ministers elected since independence in 1965 have been Chinese. There’s a perception among some Singaporeans that this ethnic group has more privileges, a claim Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said is “entirely baseless.”

The topic has come to the fore after Tharman Shanmugaratnam won the presidential race with a landslide, beating two Chinese contenders. Tharman, who served key positions in the ruling People’s Action Party and was a senior minister before resigning to take part in the election, clinched 70.4% of the vote.

This week, a leader from the PAP said that it was too early to draw a conclusion that Singapore was ready for a non-Chinese prime minister based on Tharman’s victory. “It will come one day because the Singapore society is maturing,” Heng Swee Keat, a deputy prime minister, was quoted as saying by the Straits Times.

Singapore is preparing for a rare handover of power as Lee plans to step aside as premier after nearly two decades in office. Lee’s succession is expected to coincide with national polls that must be called by 2025.

YouGov interviewed 1,000 Singaporeans above the age of 21 between 8 and 11 September.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.