Parliamentary elections in Singapore must be held within three months after five years have elapsed from the date of the first sitting of a particular Parliament of Singapore. However, in most cases Parliament is dissolved and a general election called at the behest of the Prime Minister before the five-year period elapses. The number of constituencies or electoral divisions is not permanently fixed by law, but is declared by the Prime Minister prior to each general election pursuant to the Parliamentary Elections Act (Cap. 218, 2011 Rev. Ed.), which governs the conduct of elections to Parliament, taking into account recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. For the 2015 general election, there were 89 seats in Parliament organised into 13 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) and 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs). Each SMC returns one Member of Parliament while each GRC returns between three and six MPs, at least one of whom must be from the Malay, Indian or other minority communities. A group of persons wishing to stand for election in a GRC must all be members of the same political party, or a group of independent candidates. The voting age in Singapore is 21 years.
- Composition and term of Parliament
- Qualifications for Parliamentary candidates
- Issuance of writ of election
- Application for minority certificate
- Political donations
- Election agents
- Election expenses, and illegal and corrupt practices
- Election advertising
- Election meetings
- Eve of polling day and polling day
- Declaration that election is void
- Past elections and latest election
- By elections
The election process begins when the President, acting on Cabinet's advice, issues a writ of election addressed to the returning officer. On nomination day, the returning officer and his or her representatives will be present at designated nomination centres between 11:00 am and 12:00 noon to receive prospective candidates' nomination papers, and political donation certificates certifying that they have complied with the requirements of the Political Donations Act (Cap. 236, 2001 Rev. Ed.). A person intending to contest in a GRC as a minority candidate must also submit a certificate confirming that he or she is a person belonging to the Malay, Indian or some other minority community. In addition, between the date of the writ of election and 12:00 noon on nomination day, candidates must lodge with the returning officer a deposit equal to 8% of the total allowances payable to an MP in the preceding calendar year, rounded to the nearest $500. For the 2015 general election, the amount of the deposit was $14,500. At the close of the nomination period, where there is only one candidate in an SMC or one group of candidates in a GRC standing nominated, the election is uncontested and the returning officer will declare that the candidate has or the group of candidates have been elected. Where there is more than one candidate in an SMC or more than one group of candidates in a GRC, the election is adjourned for a poll to be taken. The returning officer issues a notice of contested election which states when polling day will be; and information such as the names of the candidates, their proposers and seconders, the symbols allocated to candidates which will be printed on ballot papers, and the locations of polling stations.
Candidates can only mount election campaigns from after the close of nomination up to the day before the eve of polling day. No campaigning is permitted on the eve of polling day itself, which is known as "cooling-off day". Candidates can advertise on the Internet, conduct house-to-house visits, distribute pamphlets, put up banners and posters, and hold election rallies. Political parties fielding at least six candidates are allocated airtime for two pre-recorded party political broadcasts on radio and television, one on the day following nomination day and the other on cooling-off day. The amount of airtime granted depends on the number of candidates each party is fielding. The maximum amount which a candidate or his or her election agent can pay or incur for an election campaign is $3.50 for each elector in an SMC, or $3.50 for each elector divided by the number of candidates in the group standing for election in a GRC.
Polling day at a general election is a public holiday, and voting is compulsory. Unless the returning officer decides otherwise, polling stations are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Voters must go to the polling stations assigned to them. After the poll closes, the presiding officer of each polling station seals the ballot boxes without opening them. Candidates or their polling agents may also affix their own seals to the ballot boxes. The ballot boxes are then taken to counting centres to be opened and the ballots counted. A candidate or his counting agent may ask the returning officer for a recount of votes if the difference between the number of votes for the candidate or group of candidates with the most votes and the number of votes of any other candidate or group of candidate is 2% or less, excluding rejected and tendered votes. After all counts, and recounts if any, have been completed, the returning officer ascertains whether the total number of electors registered to vote overseas is less than the difference between the number of votes for the two candidates with the highest number of votes. If so, the returning officer declares the candidate with the highest number of votes to be elected as President. If not, the returning officer states the number of votes cast for each candidate and the date and location where the overseas votes will be counted.
The most recent general election was held in 2015. The People's Action Party was returned to power to form the Government with 83 seats, while the Workers' Party of Singapore secured six seats by winning in Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC.
Composition and term of Parliament
The Parliament of Singapore is unicameral and consists of three types of Members of Parliament: elected Members of Parliament (MPs), Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs), and Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs). Of these, MPs are chosen by universal suffrage or popular election under a "first-past-the-post" system, while NCMPs are chosen from among the candidates of political parties not forming the Government.
The maximum duration of each Parliament is five years from the date of its first sitting. If Parliament has not been dissolved before that period has elapsed, it is automatically dissolved by operation of law. However, in most cases Parliament is dissolved and a general election called at the behest of the Prime Minister, who is entitled to advise the President to do so by a proclamation published in the Government Gazette. The President is not obliged to proclaim that Parliament is dissolved unless he is satisfied that the Prime Minister commands the confidence of a majority of MPs. Once Parliament has been dissolved, a general election must be held within three months.
The number of elected MPs and constituencies or electoral divisions is not permanently fixed by law, but is declared by the Prime Minister prior to each general election pursuant to the Parliamentary Elections Act, which governs the conduct of elections to Parliament, taking into account recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. For the purposes of the 2011 general election, there were 87 seats in Parliament organised into 12 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) and 15 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs). Each SMC returns one MP while each GRC returns between three and six MPs, at least one of whom must be from the Malay, Indian or other minority communities. Two GRCs were designated as four-member wards, 11 as five-member wards, and two as six-member wards. Nine GRCs were designated as wards for which at least one member of the Malay community had to be fielded as a candidate, and six as wards for which at least one member of the Indian or some other minority community had to be fielded. A group of persons wishing to stand for election in a GRC must all be members of the same political party, or a group of independent candidates.
Qualifications for Parliamentary candidates
Persons are qualified to be elected or appointed as MPs if:
Article 45 provides that persons are not qualified to be MPs if:
A person's disqualification for having failed to properly lodge a return of election expenses or having been convicted of an offence may be removed by the President. If the President has not done so, the disqualification ceases at the end of five years from the date on which the return was required to be lodged or, as the case may be, the date on which the person convicted was released from custody or the date on which the fine was imposed. In addition, a person is not disqualified for acquiring or exercising rights of foreign citizenship or declared allegiance to a foreign country if he or she did so before becoming a Singapore citizen.
To be eligible to vote in a parliamentary election in a particular year, a person's name must appear in a certified register of electors of that year. A register of electors is prepared for each electoral division in Singapore. A person is entitled to have his or her name entered or retained in an electoral register of a certain year if on 1 January of that year he or she is a Singapore citizen who is ordinarily resident in Singapore, is not less than 21 years old, and is not subject to any disqualifications. A person not resident in Singapore but entitled to have his or her name entered or retained in a register of electors for a particular electoral division may apply to be registered as an overseas elector any time before a writ of election is issued for any election in that division.
A person is disqualified from having his or her name entered or retained in a register of electors if he or she:
A person is deemed to be ordinarily resident in Singapore on 1 January of a year if he or she has resided in Singapore for an aggregate of 30 days during the three years immediately preceding 1 January, even if he or she is not actually resident in Singapore on that date. However, such a person is not entitled to have his or her name entered or retained in any register of electors if:
The Prime Minister may from time to time, but not later than three years after the last general election, direct that the electoral registers be revised; and may, before a general election, require the registers to be brought up to date by reference to a particular year. After registers have been prepared or updated, they are made available for public inspection to enable people to submit claims to be included in registers or to raise objections concerning the inclusion of other people in the registers. After all claims and objections have been dealt with, the registers are certified as correct.
Issuance of writ of election
The election process begins when the President, acting on Cabinet's advice, issues a writ of election addressed to the returning officer, who is the official responsible for overseeing the election. The writ specifies the date when the nomination of candidates is to be taken (which must not be earlier than five days nor later than one month from the date of the writ), and the places of nomination.
The returning officer issues a notice stating that the writ of election has been issued by the President and stipulating the date, time and places for nomination of candidates, the documents that candidates must submit on nomination day, and the amount of the deposit that must be lodged. This notice must be issued at least four clear days before nomination day.
Application for minority certificate
Any person who wishes to participate in an election as a minority candidate in a GRC must, after the date of notice of the writ of election and at least two clear days before nomination day, apply to the Malay Community Committee or the Indian and Other Minority Communities Committee for a certificate stating that he or she is a person belonging to the Malay, Indian or some other minority community. Certificates to this effect will be issued by the respective committees not later than the day before nomination day.
Under the Political Donations Act, candidates for parliamentary elections may only receive political donations from Singapore citizens who are at least 21 years old, or Singapore-controlled companies which carry on business wholly or mainly in Singapore. The receipt of anonymous donations is prohibited, except for anonymous donations totalling less than $5,000 received during a period starting with the date 12 months before the date when the candidate makes the declaration referred to below and ending with nomination day.
After the date of the writ of election and at least two clear days before nomination day, a candidate or prospective candidate must provide the Registrar of Political Donations with a report stating all the donations received from permissible donors that amount to at least $10,000 received during the 12 months preceding the declaration mentioned in the next sentence. He or she must also submit to the Registrar a declaration stating, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, that he or she did not receive any other donations required to be mentioned in the donation report, and that only donations from permissible donors or allowable anonymous donations were accepted. If this paperwork is in order, the Registrar will issue a political donation certificate not later than the eve of nomination day stating that the candidate has complied with the provisions of the Act.
On nomination day, the returning officer and his or her representatives will be present at designated nomination centres between 11:00 am and 12:00 noon to receive prospective candidates' nomination papers, political donation certificates, and minority certificates (if required). Each nomination paper must contain a statement signed by the prospective candidate that he or she consents to the nomination; must include a statutory declaration by the prospective candidate that he or she is qualified to be elected; and must be signed by a proposer, a seconder, and four or more persons as assentors, each of whom must be a person on the register of electors for the electoral division in which the person seeks election.
In addition, between the date of the writ of election and 12:00 noon on nomination day, candidates are required to lodge with the returning officer a deposit equal to 8% of the total allowances payable to an MP in the preceding calendar year, rounded to the nearest $500. The exact amount of the deposit is specified in the notice of the writ of election issued by the returning officer. For the 2011 general election, the amount of the deposit was $16,000. A candidate who subsequently polls more than one-eighth of the total number of valid votes in the electoral division he or she contests but who is not elected will have the deposit returned; otherwise, the deposit is forfeited and paid into the Consolidated Fund (the Government's main bank account).
Nomination papers and certificates must be personally delivered to the returning officer in duplicate by the person seeking nomination. The person's proposer, seconder and at least four assentors must also be present in person. Each nomination paper is then posted outside the place of nomination; and candidates, their proposers, seconders, assentors and one other person appointed by each candidate to be present may examine the nomination papers of other candidates which have been received for that electoral division. Candidates may object to other candidates' nomination papers on the following grounds only:
The returning officer may himself or herself lodge objections. All objections must be made between 11:00 am and 12:30 pm on nomination day. The returning officer must then, with the least possible delay, decide on the validity of the objections made and inform candidates of his or her decision. If any objection is allowed, the grounds of the decision must be provided. The rejection of any objection is final and cannot be challenged in court, but any objections that are allowed may be reversed on application to an election judge.
Each candidate may only be nominated in one electoral division at a general election, and only nominated once in an electoral division. Multiple nominations are void.
At the close of the nomination period, where there is only one candidate in an SMC or one group of candidates in a GRC standing nominated, the election is uncontested and the returning officer will declare that the candidate has or the group of candidates have been elected. Where there is more than one candidate in an SMC or more than one group of candidates in a GRC, the election is adjourned for a poll to be taken. The returning officer issues a notice of contested election which states when polling day will be (which must not be earlier than the 10th day nor later than the 56th day after publication of the notice); and information such as the names of the candidates, their proposers and seconders, the symbols allocated to candidates which will be printed on ballot papers, and the locations of polling stations.
On or before nomination day, every candidate must declare to the returning officer the name of one person who will act as his or her election agent. This person is legally responsible for the conduct of the candidate's political campaign. In the case of a group of candidates contesting a GRC, a principal election agent must be appointed from among the candidates' election agents. Candidates may name themselves as their own election agents.
Election agents are required to appoint candidates' paid polling agents (persons who oversee polling at polling stations on behalf of candidates), clerks and messengers; hire committee rooms for the use of candidates; pay for expenses incurred for the conduct or management of the election; and receive money from third parties for election expenses.
Election expenses, and illegal and corrupt practices
The maximum amount which a candidate or his or her election agent can pay or incur for an election campaign is $3.50 for each elector in an SMC, or $3.50 for each elector divided by the number of candidates in the group standing for election in a GRC. The following expenses are illegal practices:
The penalty for committing in illegal practice is a fine of up to $2,000. In addition, for three years from the date of conviction, the person convicted will be incapable of being registered as an elector, voting at any election, or being elected as the President or an MP. If, at the date of conviction, the person has been elected an MP, the election is vacated.
The following acts are corrupt practices:
The penalty for bribery, personation, treating and undue influence is a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment of up to three years or both. On conviction for making a false statement, a person is liable to be fined or imprisoned up to 12 months or both. In addition, a person convicted of a corrupt practice is incapable for a seven-year period of being registered as an elector, or voting at any election, being elected the President or an MP. If, on the date of conviction, a person has already been elected an MP, the election is vacated.
Election surveys and exit polls
Between the day the writ of election is issued and the close of all polling stations on polling day, it is an offence to publish the results of any election survey, which is defined as an opinion survey of how electors will vote at an election, or of the preferences of electors concerning any candidate or group of candidates or any political party or issue with which an identifiable candidate or group of candidates is associated at an election. It is also an offence to publish on polling day before all the polling stations have closed any exit poll, that is, "any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted", or "any forecast as to the result of the election which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given". The penalty for both of these offences is a fine of up to $1,500, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.
On 20 June 2013, the police, acting on directions of the Attorney-General's Chambers, gave Singapore Press Holdings ("SPH") and Warren Fernandez, respectively the publisher and editor of The Straits Times, a warning in lieu of prosecution for having published a voters' poll in the newspaper on 10 January. As this was the day after the writ of election for the 2013 by-election in Punggol East was issued, the publication of the poll contravened the ban against publishing election surveys during the blackout period. SPH accepted that an "internal lapse" had occurred.
Two forms of political advertising on the Internet are permitted during election time. First, during the election period – that is, the period between the day the writ of election is issued and the start of polling day – political parties, candidates or election agents may use the Internet to further candidates' campaigns, including using websites, chat rooms or discussion forums, video and photograph sharing or hosting websites, e-mail, micro-blog posts (such as Twitter), SMS and MMS messages, digital audio and video files, electronic media applications, and blogs and social networking services (such as Facebook). Election advertising sent by e-mail, micro-blog post, SMS or MMS must contain a functioning e-mail address or mobile phone number to enable recipients to indicate that they do not wish to receive further messages from the sender.
However, the Internet may not be used to publish the following:
Secondly, when candidates wish to publish election advertising on the Internet during the campaign period – that is, the period from the closure of the place of nomination on nomination day after the election is adjourned to enable a poll to be taken, to the start of the eve of polling day – they must provide to the returning officer, within 12 hours after the start of the period, declarations containing information on all the online platforms the advertising has appeared on in that time. Subsequently, a similar declaration must be provided before election advertising is published on such platforms.
Individuals who are Singapore citizens may publish on the Internet material that amounts to election advertising without having to comply with the above regulations so long as they do so personally and not at the direction of another person or on that person's behalf, and do not receive any benefit for doing so.
Political films and broadcasts, and campaign recordings
The Films Act defines a party political film as a film "(a) which is an advertisement made by or on behalf of any political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body; or (b) which is made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore". A film is regarded as being "directed towards a political end in Singapore" if it:
(a) contains wholly or partly any matter which, in the opinion of the Board [of Film Censors], is intended or likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore; or
(b) contains wholly or partly references to or comments on any political matter which, in the opinion of the Board, are either partisan or biased; and "political matter" includes but is not limited to any of the following:(i) an election or a national referendum in Singapore; (ii) a candidate or group of candidates in an election; (iii) an issue submitted or otherwise before electors in an election or a national referendum in Singapore; (iv) the Government or a previous Government or the opposition to the Government or previous Government; (v) a Member of Parliament; (vi) a current policy of the Government or an issue of public controversy in Singapore; or (vii) a political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body.
In general, it is an offence to import, make or reproduce, distribute, or exhibit any party political film. The punishment for doing so is a fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment of up to two years. However, a film is not regarded as a party political film if it is:
In addition, during the period starting with the day when the writ of election is issued and ending with the start of the eve of polling day, election campaign recordings are exempted from the requirement that films must be submitted to the Board of Film Censors for review, and may be published on and distributed through the Internet. Such recordings are unmodified live recordings of lawful performances, assemblies or processions held in connection with election activities which do not depict the proceedings in a dramatic way or consist of unscripted or "reality" type programmes.
Under content codes issued by the Media Development Authority, political advertising is not permitted on radio or television. Instead the Authority arranges for pre-recorded party political broadcasts to be made on radio and TV, one on the day after nomination day and the other on the eve of polling day. Only political parties fielding at least six candidates at an election are eligible to make a broadcast; independent candidates may not do so. Party political broadcasts must be delivered by candidates, and each broadcast must consist of a single script in each of the four official languages of Singapore: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English. The duration of the permitted broadcast depends on the number of candidates each party is fielding, and ranges from two and a half minutes for a party fielding six or seven candidates, to 12 minutes for one fielding between 80 and 87 candidates. The number of candidates fielded also determines the order of broadcasts, with the broadcast of the party fielding the smallest number of candidates on first and that of the party fielding the largest number last.
Banners and posters
Once nomination proceedings have ended on nomination day, the returning officer issues to each candidate, group of candidates or their election agents a permit authorising banners and posters to be displayed. The permit specifies the maximum number of banners and posters that may be displayed, any restrictions as to the places where or manner in which they must not be displayed, and the period after polling day within which they must be removed. All banners and posters must have a stamp bearing the returning officer's official mark on the bottom right-hand corner. They may not be displayed within 200 metres (660 ft) of any polling station or any shorter distance as the returning officer may specify. Among other things, it is an offence punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months to alter, deface, destroy, obliterate or remove any banner or poster, or to display a banner or poster in such a way as to obscure any banner or poster already displayed.
All election advertising contained in printed documents must bear on their face or, if there is more than one side of printed matter, on the first or last pages, the names and addresses of their printers, publishers, and the persons for whom the advertising was published. Failure to comply with this requirement amounts to a corrupt practice and attracts a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to 12 months or both. In addition, a convicted person is subject to the disqualifications referred to earlier.
For election meetings such as rallies to be held, permits must be applied for from the Commissioner of Police at the Police Elections Liaison Office in the Police Cantonment Complex. The dates and venues for the meetings are fixed by the police, and candidates may apply for permits on a first-come-first-served basis the day before each meeting date. Although meetings can normally be held at Speakers' Corner without applying for a police permit, this privilege does not apply during election periods.
Eve of polling day and polling day
Legal changes were introduced in 2010 to turn the eve of polling day for both parliamentary and presidential elections into a "cooling-off day" on which no campaigning is permitted. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong justified the changes as enabling voters to think dispassionately about the candidates' stands on issues raised, and reducing the chance of public disorder. On the eve and on polling day itself, election advertising is prohibited, though the following activities remain unaffected:
Badges, favours, flags, rosettes, symbols, sets of colours, advertisements, handbills, placards, posters and replica voting papers may not be carried, worn, used or displayed by any person or on any vehicle as political propaganda, although candidates may wear replicas of the symbols allotted to them for election purposes. In addition, holding election meetings and canvassing are not permitted on the day before polling day and polling day itself. Canvassing involves trying to persuade a person to vote or not to vote in a particular way, or visiting a voter for an election-related purpose at home or at his or her workplace. It is also an offence to exercise undue influence on any person at or near a polling station, for instance, by trying to find out the identity of any person entering a polling station, recording voters' particulars, and waiting outside or loitering within 200 metres (660 ft) of polling stations.
Voters receive poll cards informing them of the polling stations where they can cast their votes in person. Polling day at a general election is a public holiday, and voting is compulsory. Unless the returning officer decides otherwise, polling stations are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm on polling day. To vote, voters must go to the polling stations assigned to them. Applying for a ballot paper or voting in the name of someone else, or attempting to vote more than once, amounts to the offence of personation. If a person claiming to be a voter named in the electoral register turns up at a polling station after someone also claiming to be that voter has already voted, the second person is permitted to cast what is called a "tendered vote" using a ballot paper of a different colour after taking an oath to confirm his identity.
After the poll closes, the presiding officer of each polling station seals the ballot boxes without opening them. Candidates or their polling agents may also affix their own seals to the ballot boxes. The ballot boxes are then taken to counting centres to be opened and the ballots counted. According to the guidance issued to voters by the Elections Department, votes should be marked with a cross. However, even if this guidance is not followed, a vote is valid if the ballot paper clearly indicates the voter's intention and the candidate or group of candidates for whom he or she votes. A vote will be rejected by the returning officer as invalid if it:
The returning officer must show each ballot paper intended to be rejected to all candidates or their counting agents and hear their views, but makes the final decision as to whether the ballot paper should be rejected or not.
A candidate or his counting agent may ask the returning officer for a recount of votes if the difference between the number of votes for the candidate or group of candidates with the most votes and the number of votes of any other candidate or group of candidates is 2% or less, excluding rejected and tendered votes. After all counts, and recounts if any, have been completed, the returning officer ascertains whether the total number of electors registered to vote overseas is less than the difference between the number of votes for the two candidates with the highest number of votes. If so, the returning officer declares the candidate with the highest number of votes to be elected as President. If not, the overseas votes may be decisive. The returning officer then states the number of votes cast for each candidate and the date and location where the overseas votes will be counted.
All officers, clerks, interpreters, candidates and candidates' agents at polling stations must maintain the secrecy of voting in stations. Before the poll is closed, they must not communicate to anyone the name of any elector who has or has not yet voted or his or her or identification number on the electoral register. They are prohibited from communicating information obtained during the counting of votes as to which candidate has been voted for in any particular ballot paper. Furthermore, no person is allowed to try to find out from within a polling station who a voter intends to vote for or has voted for, or to communicate with a voter after he has been given a ballot paper but before he has placed it in a ballot box.
Declaration that election is void
A person claiming to have been a candidate at a parliamentary election or to have had a right to be elected, or a person who voted or had a right to vote at a parliamentary election, may apply to an election judge for a candidate's election to be declared void on any of the following grounds:
The Chief Justice or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him acts as the election judge.
The applicant for an election to be avoided may ask for a declaration that the election is void, that a particular candidate was wrongfully declared to have been elected, and/or that another candidate was duly elected. The applicant may also request for a scrutiny – that is, a re-examination of the ballot papers – if he or she alleges that an unsuccessful candidate had a majority of lawful votes. When a scrutiny is conducted, the election judge may order a vote to be struck off if the voter was not on the register of electors assigned to the polling station at which the vote was recorded or was not authorised to vote at the station; if the vote was obtained by bribery, treating or undue influence; if the voter committed or induced someone to commit the offence of personation; if the voter cast a vote at a general election in more than one electoral division; and if the vote was for a disqualified candidate and the disqualification was either a matter that the voter was aware of or was sufficiently publicised or widely known. During a scrutiny, a tendered vote that is shown to be valid will be added to the poll if any party to the proceedings asks for the vote to be added. On the other hand, a registered elector's vote will not be struck off at a scrutiny just because he was not qualified to be on the electoral register, and the returning officer's decision as to whether or not a ballot paper should be rejected may not be questioned.
The election judge is empowered to exempt from being an illegal practice any particular act or omission by a candidate, his election agents or any other agent or person in paying a sum, incurring an expense or entering into a contract if it was done in good faith and was due to inadvertence, accidental miscalculation or the like. Similarly, the judge may make an order allowing an authorised excuse for a failure to file a proper return or declaration relating to election expenses if the candidate or his principal election agent shows that he acted in good faith and that there is a reasonable explanation for the shortcoming such as his inadvertence or illness, or the absence, death, illness or misconduct of some other agent, clerk or officer. In particular, the judge may relieve a candidate from the consequences of an act or omission by his principal election agent if he did not sanction or connive in it and took all reasonable means to prevent it.
The election judge certifies his decision, which is final, to the President. The judge must also report to the President whether any corrupt or illegal practice was established to have been committed by or with the knowledge and consent of any candidate or his agent. If a judge intends to report a person who was neither a party to the proceedings nor a candidate claiming he should have been declared elected, that person must be given an opportunity to be heard and to give and call evidence to show why a report should not be made against him. However, where a candidate's agents are found to have been guilty of treating, undue influence or an illegal practice, but the candidate proves that the offences were committed contrary to his orders and without his or his election agents' sanction or connivance, that all reasonable means were taken to prevent corrupt and illegal practices at the election, that the offences were of a trivial and limited nature, and in other respects the election was free from corrupt or illegal practice, the election is not void.
Depending on whether the judge has determined that the election was valid or void, the election return is confirmed or altered. If the election is declared void, the President is empowered to order that another election be held in the electoral division concerned within one month of the determination. If the election of one MP in a GRC is determined to be void, the election of the other MPs for that constituency is also void.
Past elections and latest election
With effect from 3 June 1959, Singapore was granted full internal self-government by the British Government and became known as the State of Singapore. For the first time, Singapore had a fully elected Legislative Assembly. At the 1959 general election held on 30 May that year to give effect to the new constitution, the People's Action Party (PAP) led by Lee Kuan Yew swept into power with 43 out of 51 seats in the Assembly. Since then, the PAP has retained power and formed the Government through successive elections, and Singapore's merger with Malaysia in 1963 and full independence in 1965. In the 1968 general election, the PAP was returned unopposed in all except seven of the 58 constituencies, and won the remaining seats with 84% of the popular vote. Thereafter, every seat in Parliament was held by a PAP MP until Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam of the Workers' Party of Singapore won a 1981 by-election in the Anson constituency. Jeyaretnam retained his seat at the following general election in 1984, at which Chiam See Tong of the Singapore Democratic Party was also elected as representative of Potong Pasir. Between 1984 and 2011, the number of elected parliamentary seats held by opposition parties fluctuated between one (after the 1988 election) and four (1991 election).
The PAP's share of the vote fell to its lowest since 1965 at the latest general election in 2011, where it was 60.1%. For the first time, an opposition party – the Workers' Party – captured a GRC. It ended up securing one seat through Hougang SMC and five through Aljunied GRC, limiting the PAP's majority to 81 out of 87 seats.
By-elections are elections held to fill seats in Parliament that fall vacant in between general elections, known as casual vacancies. In the past, the Government took the position that the Prime Minister had discretion whether or not a by-election should be called to fill a casual vacancy in an SMC, and could leave a parliamentary seat unfilled until the next general election. However, in the case of Vellama d/o Marie Muthu v. Attorney-General (2013), which arose from a vacancy in Hougang SMC, the Court of Appeal held that the Constitution obliges the Prime Minister to call a by-election unless a general election is going to be held in the near future. However, a by-election need only be called within a reasonable time, and the Prime Minister has discretion to determine when it should be held.
The law provides that a by-election need only be called in a GRC if all the MPs in the constituency vacate their seats. It has been argued that the law should be amended, otherwise electors living in a GRC where a vacancy has arisen will lack parliamentary representation, and with a missing MP the remaining MPs may find it difficult to deal with constituency matters. Also, if the MP who vacates his or her seat is from a minority community and the seat is not filled, this would defeat the purpose of the GRC scheme which is to ensure a minimum level of minority representation in Parliament. In response, the Government has said that the other MPs of the GRC continue to represent the electors and should be able to handle constituency matters without any problems. Moreover, the loss of one minority MP in a GRC should not make much difference in practice as there will be other minority MPs in Parliament.
NCMPs are only declared to be elected at general elections, and there is no provision for the seat of an NCMP to be filled if it falls vacant. On the other hand, if an NMP vacates his or her seat, a Special Select Committee of Parliament may nominate a replacement to be appointed by the President.