SINGAPORE – Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew resigned from the Cabinet on Saturday, ceding leadership to a younger generation after his party's worst election result since independence in 1965.
Lee and fellow former prime minister Goh Chok Tong said in their joint resignation statement they wanted to leave a clean path for younger leaders.
"A younger generation wants to be more engaged in the decisions which affect them," they said. "After a watershed general election, we have decided to leave the cabinet and have a completely younger team of ministers to connect to and engage with this young generation."
The 87-year old Lee was prime minister from 1959 to 1990 after which Goh took over until 2004. Lee had been known as Minister Mentor while Goh was Senior Minister since 2004, and both won parliament seats in the May 7 election.
The ruling People's Action Party won 60 percent of the vote, down from 67 percent in 2006 and 75 percent in 2001. The Workers Party won six seats, the most the opposition has held since independence.
Lee's resignation marks the first time since 1959 that he hasn't been in Singapore's Cabinet and hails the coming-of-age of his son, 59-year-old Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
PAP leaders after the election have said they were surprised at the level of resentment some voters felt toward the government for its perceived arrogance and lack of collaboration with citizens. The Southeast Asia island is one of the world's richest countries, but soaring housing prices amid a surge of foreign workers have left poorer Singaporeans struggling.
Last month, Lee Kuan Yew warned voters in the Aljunied district that they would "repent" for five years if they voted for opposition candidates. Prime Minister Lee later distanced himself from his father's comments, but the opposition won all five of Aljunied's seats.
"The time has come for a younger generation to carry Singapore forward in a more difficult and complex situation," Lee and Goh said. "The Prime Minister and his team of younger leaders should have a fresh clean slate."