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Singapore buzzes over next PM after Heng upends 'best-laid plans'

Lee and ruling party face big decision as global and domestic pressures build

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, left, was considered Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's successor until he took himself out of the running. (Source photos by AP and Reuters)

SINGAPORE -- The sudden announcement by Singapore's prime minister-in-waiting that he will withdraw from contention for the top job has left the city-state with a difficult succession question at the most critical of moments.

COVID-19 has hammered the economy, resulting in a record 5.4% contraction last year. International relations require a deft touch amid an intensifying U.S.-China rivalry that pushes countries to take sides. And the political opposition within Singapore itself looks stronger than ever, after unprecedented gains in last year's election.

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