SINGAPORE: Singapore independence leader Lee Kuan Yew's decision to step down after half a century in government could pave the way for reforms after the ruling party's worst election showing, analysts said Sunday.

The 87-year-old politician popularly known as “LKY” and his successor Goh Chok Tong, who turns 70 next week, announced on Saturday that they would quit the cabinet of Lee's son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 59.

The catalyst was the May 7 parliamentary election, which revealed deep anger against the People's Action Party (PAP) and confirmed the desire of young Singaporeans for a more open political system with checks and balances.

“This decision reflects the first major steps toward serious reform of the PAP, a generational transformation,” Bridget Welsh, a political science professor at the Singapore Management University, said.

“The retirement of LKY was long overdue, as he has been seen as disconnecting from contemporary Singaporeans,” Welsh said.

The PAP's share of all votes cast fell to 60 per cent, its lowest ever, and only a controversial system that elects MPs in groups capped the opposition at six out of 87 seats in the incoming parliament, still better than its previous best of four seats.

The elder Lee served as prime minister from 1959, when colonial ruler Britain granted self-rule to Singapore, until 1990, when he stepped aside for his deputy Goh, who in turn handed power in 2004 to Lee's son.

In a joint statement, the two former premiers said their departure from the cabinet would enable the current leader to “break from the past” and allow a younger generation to “carry Singapore forward.”

The PAP has often described the unusual presence of two former leaders in the cabinet as part of an orderly succession process designed to tap the experience and international connections of Lee and Goh.

But during the campaign, the two veterans attracted scorn from younger Singaporeans on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The prime minister said after the vote that the PAP would take a hard look at how it governs, calling it a “watershed” poll that marked a shift in the political landscape of the affluent island of five million people.—AFP

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