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Singapore’s Parliament Speaker Resigns in Latest Blow to Ruling Party

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Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party was rocked by two unexpected resignations, including that of parliament speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, further fueling one of the biggest political crises in the city-state’s history.

Once seen as a potential prime ministerial candidate by political observers, Tan, 54, stepped down from positions in government and the party, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement Monday. He is the second parliament speaker to resign for having an inappropriate relationship in just over a decade.

His resignation is the latest in a series of scandals to send shockwaves through Singapore, including a graft probe on a cabinet minister and investigations into pricey rentals by two other members of Lee’s administration. This comes at a precarious time for the PAP, which is navigating a leadership succession in its nearly six decades of power and battling voter unhappiness over rising living costs.

Read More: A Singapore Cabinet Minister Faces the Country’s Most Serious Graft Probe Since 1986

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“I have accepted Mr Tan’s resignation from the People’s Action Party,” Lee said in a statement on Monday. “His resignation is necessary, to maintain the high standards of propriety and personal conduct which the PAP has upheld all these years.”

Political analysts are describing the developments as a shock and a crisis for the PAP, which has been laying the ground work for a new generation of politicians to take over, led by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong. The PAP is heading for a national vote by 2025 and there’s a presidential election by September.

“This would mean that Lawrence Wong will have his hands full as he mitigates this political minefield,” said Felix Tan, political analyst at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “Just when we thought we had about enough political intrigue, we now have yet another slew of political kerfuffle that is seemingly going to engulf Singapore.”

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In his resignation letter, Tan said he made a mistake in parliament for using “unparliamentary language” and he apologized to an opposition lawmaker. Tan earlier said he was muttering to himself but his “private thoughts” were caught during a recording of the parliament hearing.

“For me personally, this recent episode has added to the hurt I have caused my family,” Tan wrote in the letter published by the Prime Minister’s Office. “I have let them down. We have spoken about my personal conduct before.”

Lee later told local media Tan had an inappropriate relationship with a fellow PAP lawmaker Cheng Li Hui, who has also resigned.

“It is painful to do this to our friends and comrades-in-arms, and it can also be politically embarrassing and costly,” Lee said. “But the PAP has to maintain party discipline and standard of conduct.”

The resignations on Monday may shake voter confidence after last week’s arrest of Transport Minister S. Iswaran and property tycoon Ong Beng Seng in a graft probe that’s challenged the city-state’s reputation for clean governance.

Read More: Who Is Ong Beng Seng, the Billionaire Caught Up in Singapore’s Historic Corruption Probe?

In June, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam were cleared of wrongdoing by the anti-corruption bureau for their rental of colonial houses near a high-end lifestyle hub. Lee ordered the review after the opposition asked if the ministers had paid below-market rates.

“It seems here now that when it rains, it pours,” said Eugene Tan, a law professor at Singapore Management University. “This is a significant crisis, I would use the word crisis. This combination of developments would undermine public trust and confidence in the PAP.”

—With assistance from Aradhana Aravindan.

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