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Singapore prime minister says he will step down on May 15 and hand post to his deputy


SINGAPORE (AP) — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will relinquish his office on May 15 and hand the post to his deputy Lawrence Wong, his office said Monday.

Lee, 72, will formally advise the city-state's president to appoint Wong, who is currently deputy prime minister and finance minister, to succeed him, his office said in a brief statement.

Wong, who has the unanimous support of lawmakers in the long-ruling People's Action Party, will be sworn in at the national palace later the same day, it said.

Lee has served as prime minister and head of the PAP since August 2004.

He announced last November that he would retire this year and has already named Wong as his designated successor. Lee originally planned to step down before turning 70, but those plans were shelved because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lee has said there is no reason to delay the political transition and that passing the baton to Wong before national elections due next year will allow the 51-year-old politician to win his own mandate and take the country forward.

Lee is the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, who became Singapore’s first prime minister and built the resource-poor city-state into one of the world’s richest nations during 31 years in office. But Singapore has also been criticized for its tight government control, media censorship and use of oppressive laws and civil lawsuits against dissidents.