New Singapore opposition party launched as polls loom

Progress Singapore Party is aiming to contest an election due by 2021 in Singapore. (Facebook pic)

SINGAPORE: A new opposition party backed by the estranged brother of Singapore’s prime minister was launched Saturday in a fresh challenge to the government as speculation mounts elections could be called soon.

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) – aiming to contest an election due by 2021 but widely expected earlier – is led by Tan Cheng Bock, a medical doctor and former government stalwart who once ran for president and nearly defeated the establishment candidate.

The group has received the support of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s brother, the latest sign of a bitter falling-out within the city-state’s first family over their father’s legacy.

The rare row within Singapore’s elite erupted following the 2015 death of the men’s father, founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, who led the country for three decades and is widely revered in the city.

Under decades of rule by his People’s Action Party (PAP), Singapore transformed from a gritty port into one of Asia’s most advanced economies although authorities also faced criticism for curtailing civil liberties and free speech.

A party source confirmed that Tan’s PSP was formally launched in the morning. He was due to address the media later.

The group joins a handful of other parties seeking to take on the dominant PAP, but the fractious opposition – which has just six out of 89 elected seats in parliament – is not viewed as a serious threat.

However, backing from the premier’s sibling, Lee Hsien Yang, could provide a boost to 79-year-old Tan, who has slammed what he described as eroding standards of governance in Singapore.

In January, 62-year-old business executive Lee said in a Facebook post that Tan was “the leader Singapore deserves”.

“I wholeheartedly support the principles and values of the Progress Singapore Party. Today’s PAP is no longer the PAP of my father. It has lost its way,” he said in another post last week.

Tan has said he may be willing to take Lee into the party formally.

The Lee family row centres on allegations made by the premier’s siblings that he is seeking to block the demolition of a family bungalow to capitalise on their father’s legacy – something he has denied.