Category: Right to vote

Towards a “Thin” Basic Structure Doctrine in Singapore (I-CONnect Column) by Jaclyn L. Neo

A Legal Backgrounder on By-elections

Yaw Shin Leong, 5 May 2011

Yaw Shin Leong at a Workers’ Party rally for the 2011 general election, 5 May 2011. (By Huaiwei. CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), via Wikimedia Commons.)

Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

THE EXPULSION of Yaw Shin Leong, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC), from the Workers’ Party has once again thrust the issue of the Government’s policy on by-elections into the limelight. This was last discussed in Parliament in August 2008 following the death of Dr Ong Chit Chung, MP for Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

Article 46 of the Constitution provides that when MPs are ousted from the political parties they stood for in an election, their seats are vacated. Parliament has final say on the matter. On 22 February, Mr Michael Palmer, the Speaker of Parliament, announced that since Mr Yaw had indicated he does not wish to challenge his expulsion, his seat became vacant on 14 February.

During the Parliamentary debate four years ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the constitutional provision – often known as the “anti-hopping” clause – ensured a stable government. He recalled the tumultuous years in the Legislative Assembly – the predecessor to Singapore’s post-independence Parliament. In 1961, 13 People’s Action Party MPs were able to leave their party and cross the floor, decimating the Government’s majority. Continue reading

UK voters turned away from polling stations: Could it happen in Singapore?

Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

Voters casting their ballots at a polling station in Hackney, London. By Alex Lee, courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

ON POLLING DAY (Thursday, 6 May 2010) of the general elections in the UK, election officials at some polling stations struggled to cope with a higher-than-usual turnout. There were long queues snaking up to the doors, in some cases with people braving rain. Unfortunately, would-be voters who had joined the queue before the polls closed at 10:00 pm were turned away at that time. In some cases, voters who were already inside the polling station but who had yet to cast their ballots were asked to leave. This led to angry scenes, with some voters even staging  sit-ins and refusing to leave polling stations, and claiming that they had been denied their right to vote. (See Gordon Rayner & Martin Beckford, “General Election 2010: Chaos at the polls as thousands denied the right to vote: Results in constituencies all over the country could be challenged today after thousands of people were denied the right to vote“, The Daily Telegraph (7 May 2010).)

Singapore is due for a Presidential election next year, and a general election for Parliament must be held by 2012. Could such a situation happen in Singapore? If so, what does the law say on the matter? Continue reading