Neha Patil (Editor)

Elections in Singapore

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Elections in Singapore

There are currently two types of elections in Singapore: parliamentary and presidential elections. According to the constitution of Singapore general elections for parliament must be conducted within 3 months of the dissolution of parliament, which has a maximum term of 5 years from the first sitting of parliament, and presidential elections are conducted every 6 years.


The parliament of Singapore is unicameral with 89 seats. Since the legislative assembly election in 1959, the People's Action Party has had an overwhelming majority, and for nearly two decades was the only party to win any seats, and has always formed the government of Singapore.

Parliamentary elections

From Singapore's independence in 1965 to 1981, the People's Action Party won every single seat in every election held, forming a parliament with no elected opposition MP for almost two decades. In Singapore, opposition politicians and trade unionists were detained in prison without trial before in the 1960s and early 1970s. Many such as Lim Chin Siong, Said Zahari and Lim Hock Siew were accused by the government of being involved in subversive communist struggles. Among them, Chia Thye Poh was detained the longest; he was detained for 23 years without any trial.

From 1984, opposition politicians began being elected in parliament. 2 seats out of 74 seats went to opposition politicians. Subsequently, in 1988, the People's Action Party won 76 out of 77 seats; in 1991, People's Action Party won 77 seats out of 81 seats. In 1997, 2001 and 2006, 2 opposition candidates were elected during each respective parliamentary election. In 1988, former solicitor general of Singapore and opposition politician Francis Seow was also detained without trial. He was later charged with tax evasion but he fled overseas and sought asylum successfully in the United States of America. He was convicted of tax evasion in absentia. Workers' Party member Gopalan Nair also fled Singapore in the 1990s. Dr Catherine Lim argues that a climate of fear hurts Singapore. Prominent opposition politicians bankrupted and/or jailed in the 20th century also include Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, Tang Liang Hong and Chee Soon Juan.

The campaigning time for elections in Singapore remains very short in the 21st century. The legal minimum campaign time, from when the election is announced to polling day, is nine days. This minimum campaigning time is generally used in Singaporean elections. The announcement of the election follows the announcement of new constituency boundaries.

Walkover rates for parliamentary elections are extremely high when compared to international norms. Since 1991, walkover rates have hovered around 50% for each election until the 2015 Singaporean General Elections when there were no walkovers for the first time in Singaporean election history. The electoral system reduces the chances of opposition representation in parliament with a "winner takes all" system for Group Representation Constituencies. However, Freedom House has noted that elections in Singapore are technically free of electoral fraud. Throughout the history of the Republic of Singapore, hundreds of politicians have been elected in parliament, of whom majority of unique candidates represent the ruling People's Action Party including surviving stalwarts like Lee Khoon Choy. 12 opposition politicians have also ever been elected into parliament, they include Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, Chiam See Tong, Ling How Doong, Cheo Chai Chen, Yaw Shin Leong and Lee Li Lian, and also six incumbent candidates from the Workers' Party of Singapore, namely Low Thia Khiang, Lim Swee Lian Sylvia, Chen Show Mao, Pritam Singh, Muhamad Faisal bin Abdul Manap and Png Eng Huat.

Presidential elections

Presidential elections have been held since 1993. Under the "Presidential Elections Act", to run for president, one must obtain a "certificate of eligibility" from the Presidential Elections Committee. To obtain this certificate, one must be:

1. a person of integrity, good character and reputation; and

2. has held for at least 3 years a cabinet ministerial post, headed a statutory board, or been a CEO of a company incorporated in Singapore worth over $100 million in paid-up capital, or has equivalent management experience.

Because of the high requirements needed to run for presidential elections, many presidential elections have been uncontested. All presidential elections have been walkovers except for the first one, held in 1993 which was contested by two people, and the 2011 one, contested by four people. The first presidential election was won by Ong Teng Cheong, a former member of the PAP. Subsequent presidential elections in 1999 and 2005 have been won by S. R. Nathan through walkovers.

The 2011 presidential election was contested by Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian. All candidates except Tan Jee Say were former members of the PAP, whose closest relation to the party was when he served as then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's principal private secretary from 1985 to 1990. The election was won by Tony Tan with a margin of 0.34% over Tan Cheng Bock.


A referendum may also be held for important national issues, although it has been held only once in Singapore's political history for the 1962 merger referendum. Calls for a national referendum has been made since then, including the issue over the building of casinos in Singapore.

2005 presidential election

The Singapore presidential election of 2005 was to be held on 27 August 2005 to elect the president of Singapore. On 13 August 2005, the Presidential Elections Committee announced that Sellapan Ramanathan Nathan was the only candidate that had received the certificate of eligibility, so he was named the next president without election.

More info: Singapore presidential election, 2005.

Legislative Council elections

  • 1948 general election
  • 1951 general election
  • Legislative Assembly elections

  • 1955 general election
  • 1957 by-election
  • 1959 general election
  • 1961 by-election (both April and July)
  • 1963 general election
  • 1965 by-election
  • Parliamentary elections

  • 1966 by-election (January, March & November)
  • 1967 by-election
  • 1968 general election
  • 1970 by-election
  • 1972 general election
  • 1976 general election
  • 1977 by-election (May & November)
  • 1979 by-election
  • 1980 general election
  • 1981 by-election
  • 1984 general election
  • 1988 general election
  • 1991 general election
  • 1992 by-election
  • 1997 general election
  • 2001 general election
  • 2006 general election
  • 2011 general election
  • 2012 by-election
  • 2013 by-election
  • 2015 general election
  • 2016 by-election
  • Municipal Commission elections

  • 1949 ordinary election
  • City Council elections

  • 1957 ordinary election
  • 1958 by-election
  • National referendums

  • 1962 national referendum
  • Federal & State elections for Malaysia

  • 1964 general election
  • Presidential elections

  • 1993 presidential election
  • 1999 presidential election
  • 2005 presidential election
  • Party election

  • Singapore PAP Prime Ministerial Election, 1959
  • GE2015 Interactive Graphics

  • Battleground Singapore: Who's standing where - an interactive map of the 2015 boundaries and changes explained in maps.
  • From Nomination Day to Polling Day: Election calendar and rally schedule - an interactive calendar of all the key events and rally schedules for the #GE2015 campaign period from Nomination Day to Polling Day. It also serves as an archive of key photos from each rally and the related ST article.
  • Who will be your next MP? - the complete list of all 181 candidates. Includes personal information, their latest tweet, results from previous elections or a Q&A if they are a new candidate.
  • #GE2015 Social media dashboard - this is a visual representation of the social media trends that fluctuate over the 10-day period of campaigning. There are two graphs updated in real-time, a selected feature of popular tweets and the last 80 Instagram pictures tagged #GE2015.
  • GE2015: Live results and full analysis
  • References

    Elections in Singapore Wikipedia

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