Singapore has been shaken by unusual political controversies

Singapore, renowned for its political stability, has been rocked by an unusual series of political controversies.

A senior minister was detained in a corruption investigation last week, the first arrest in such an investigation in four decades. On Monday, two legislators, one of whom was once considered a potential prime minister, resigned after their extramarital affair became public.

It has stunned residents of the city-state, which boasts the highest-paid leaders in the world and a reputation for transparent governance. The People's Action Party (PAP) has been in power in Singapore since 1959 and maintains a large majority in parliament, according to analysts.

They also claim that it casts doubt on the timing of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's handover of power. Monday, 54-year-old Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-jin and 47-year-old lawmaker Cheng Li Hui resigned from the party and the legislature due to their "inappropriate relationship". Mr. Tan is married, whereas Ms. Cheng is unmarried.

The Singaporean public was informed last Wednesday that Mr. Iswaran had been asked to take leave from his ministerial duties pending an investigation. Vice-prime minister Lawrence Wong told local media that the corruption investigation will be "complete, exhaustive, and independent," and that nothing will be covered up. However, authorities did not disclose the arrests until three days after they actually occurred. Both individuals are currently free on bail without charges.

The arrests followed allegations that two other senior ministers had rented colonial-era residences at below-market rates in an upscale neighborhood. K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan were exonerated of wrongdoing by an anti-corruption investigation, but the matter ignited a heated debate on inequality in Singapore and political optics.

In the past decade, a former parliamentary speaker and a backbencher resigned from their positions due to extramarital affairs. However, the close proximity of the scandals and corruption investigation has increased voter scrutiny. This week, Mr. Lee defended his party's management of recent scandals, stating that it exemplified "how the system must function."

He noted that the PAP has denied political practices that are prevalent in other developed nations, such as the public disclosure of income and assets by political officeholders, senior civil servants, and their immediate families.

Michael Barr, a professor of international relations based in Australia and author of several books on Singaporean politics, remarked that there are no effective accountability mechanisms in place. The most recent Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Singapore as the fifth least corrupt nation. The government has justified seven-figure ministerial salaries over the years as a means to combat corruption.

Recent events have also cast doubt on when Mr. Lee will resign. Since 2004, the 71-year-old prime minister has frequently expressed his desire to retire. Lawrence Wong, who is also the finance minister, has been appointed as the successor.

However, Mr. Lee stated on Monday that he has no intentions to call for an immediate general election. November 2025 is scheduled for the next election. Dr. Chong noted that the fact that Mr. Wong has not been more active and visible in addressing recent scandals raises questions about his and his colleagues' readiness to take over as leaders of the city-state.