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Who will succeed the President?

ASIAWEEK. August 6, 1999

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WHO WILL SUCCEED President Ong Teng Cheong after Singapore holds it second-ever presidential elections by the end of August? Some sources say Ong, 63, wanted to stand again, but encountered opposition from Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - or maybe it was that PM Goh Chok Tong failed to push Ong's candidacy strongly enough.

Others point out that Ong's parting diatribe about the lack of top-level coordination leaves little doubt that he wanted out of the presidency.

Speculation on his replacement centers on four men: civil service chief Lee Ek Tieng, Public Service Commission head Andrew Chew, chairman of Singapore Press Holdings Lim Kim San and S. R. Nathan, former ambassador to the US Lim, 83, may be too old, while Lee, 65, is considered too old school.

Neither is well-known or terribly inspiring. Chew, 69, isn't a dynamic public figure either, but he is seen as something of a Lee Kuan Yew man, less likely to display the occasional flashes of independence that marked Ong's six years in office.

Nathan, 75, may have one key advantage: he is not Chinese. Customarily, the presidency is rotated among Singapore's major ethnic groups. That practice might be abandoned now that the president is no longer just a figurehead, but wields oversight powers over finances.

There is talk of one dark horse: Tony Tan, 55, Singapore's other, popular, DPM. But the feeling is that Goh is reluctant to lose him from his cabinet. And there are questions of his loyalty to B.G. Lee, who seems set to become the next prime minister.

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