Third-year LLB undergraduate
School of Law, SMU
THE RECOMMENDATIONS of the Constitutional Commission on the Elected Presidency have generated much national debate even before they are tabled before Parliament. While the spotlight has largely been on the recommendations relating to securing minority representation in the nation’s highest office, perhaps we should also pay heed to the wise men and women behind the decisions of the Elected President – the Council of Presidential Advisors (“CPA”).
REPORTING the death of former President S R Nathan at the age of 92 on 22 August 2016, The Straits Times of 23 August stated in the first paragraph on its front page that he was “Singapore’s first elected and longest-serving president”.
It was soon pointed out that the first presidential election was held in 1993 and led to Ong Teng Cheong being elected to the highest office in the land. (ST couldn’t change its print edition, of course, but did update its website by removing the words first elected and, and publish a correction in the next day’s newspaper.)
However, some have questioned whether Nathan can be regarded as having been ‘elected’ at all, since the 1999 and 2005 elections he had participated in had been walkovers – he had been the only candidate declared eligible by the Presidential Elections Committee.
This raises an interesting question: who can be considered an elected President?
In a recent blogpost, Dr. Jack Lee argued that if an opposition candidate declines to take up an NCMP seat, the PAP-dominated government may not be obliged to offer that seat to the next eligible opposition candidate. This has thrown up a very interesting debate as to the legal obligations of Parliament to fill the NCMP seats. Besides Dr Jack Lee, Professor Thio Li-ann has also been reported as taking the position that there is no legal obligation on Parliament to offer the seat to the next eligible candidate. In contrast, Professor Kevin Tan argues that article 39 of the Constitution, read with section 52 of the Parliamentary Elections Act obliges Parliament to offer the seat. He is quoted as saying that “The seat cannot be left vacant. A combined reading of both provisions makes it clear that Parliament must have nine members who do not form the government.”
There are clearly good legal and policy arguments for and against imposing a legal obligation on Parliament to offer the seat to the next eligible opposition candidate where it had been previously declined. The disagreement stems from differing approaches to statutory and constitutional interpretation. Continue reading
The issue remains relevant as the possibility that the Opposition would capture at least nine parliamentary seats, raised by Jaclyn Neo in a recent post, did not happen. Citizens returned the People’s Action Party (PAP) to power with an increased vote share of 69.9% based on the votes cast in Singapore.
Today, 11 September 2015, Singaporeans go to the poll. For the first time since its independence in 1965, every (elected) parliamentary seat is being contested. A total of nine political parties are contesting in this year’s general elections. Among the questions about the anticipated outcomes is whether there will be any Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) in the new Parliament. The NCMP scheme was introduced in 1984. It allocates parliamentary seats to opposition candidates who have obtained the highest number of votes but did not win any seats in any constituency. Article 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore states that apart from elected Members and nominated Members, Parliament shall consist of members “known as non-constituency Members, as the Legislature may provide in any law relating to Parliamentary elections to ensure the representation in Parliament of a minimum number of Members from a political party or parties not forming the Government”. Continue reading
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU
IT’S BEEN INTERESTING to see that a post I made in 2012 at the time of the Hougang by-election has been seeing a surge of visits, as people try to figure out what they can or can’t post on cooling-off day and polling day of the 2015 general election (10 and 11 September).