Tagged: singapore politics

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


Let presidential hopefuls have their say

A sign at one of the nomination centres used during the 2011 general election. Nomination day for the presidential election is 17 August 2011. (© 2011 Jack Tsen-Ta Lee.)

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

TWO DAYS AGO [August 11, 2011], the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) issued certificates of eligibility to four of the six prospective candidates who applied to contest the presidential election. We are thus assured of a poll for the first time in 18 years, and with the largest number of candidates to date.

The PEC’s announcement of its decisions makes interesting reading for what it does and does not say. It allows observers to examine how the Committee goes about fulfilling its crucial duty.

The Committee consists of the Chairmen of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), and a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR) nominated by the Council’s Chairman. The Government’s power over the PEC’s composition is regulated to an extent, as the outgoing President had personal discretion to veto appointments of unsuitable persons as PSC Chairman, and as the Chairman and members of the PCMR.

Nonetheless, how the PEC carries out its task can be improved. Continue reading