The parliamentary elections include the general elections and by-elections. The Parliament has a term of 5 years but may be dissolved at any time before the expiry of its 5-year term by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The general election must be held within 3 months of the dissolution of the Parliament.
Legislations governing the conduct of the parliamentary elections comprise:
- The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (The Legislature - Part VI);
- The Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218);
- The Political Donations Act (Chapter 236); and
- Key Subsidiary Legislations.
Our Parliament is single house and has three types of Members of Parliament (MPs). They are:
- Elected MPs;
- Non-Constituency MPs; and
- Nominated MPs.
Elected MPs form the bulk and are elected at an election on a one-man-one-vote system based on simple majority (popularly known as first-pass-the-post system).
Elected MPs could be returned from Single Member Constituencies (SMC) and Group Representation Constituencies (GRC). Each SMC returns 1 MP while each GRC returns 3, 4, 5 or 6 MPs, one of whom must be from the Malay Community or the Indian or Other Minority Communities. This is to ensure that the minority groups are represented in Parliament. For the 2011 General Election, we have 12 SMCs and 15 GRCs making a total of 27 constituencies and 87 MPs.
Non-constituency MPs (NCMPs) are chosen from candidates of a political party or parties not forming the Government. The Constitution and the Parliamentary Elections Act provide that for the next and subsequent Parliaments, the number of NCMPs shall be nine less the total number of elected Opposition MPs in Parliament. The number of NCMPs coming from any one GRC shall be capped at two, and the number from any SMC shall not be more than one.
The non-constituency MPs to be declared elected shall be determined from amongst the candidates of the Opposition parties contesting the general election on the basis of the percentage of votes polled by such candidates. (Details are spelt out in Section 52 of the Act.) As six Opposition MPs were elected to Parliament in the General Election 2011, three candidates who received the highest votes amongst the unelected candidates from the Opposition parties shall be declared elected as non-constituency MPs under section 52 of the Act.
Nominated MPs (NMPs) are Singapore Citizens nominated by a Special Select Committee of Parliament for appointment by the President. NMP does not stand for election. The Constitution provides for nine NMPs.
The NCMPs and NMPs shall not vote on Bills pertaining to financial and constitutional matters.
The Parliamentary Elections Act (CAP 218)The Parliamentary Elections Act contains provisions leading to and for the conduct of the elections. Its main features are:
- Production of the registers of electors; and
- Conduct of elections.
Registers of Electors
Any person who, as on the prescribed date, is:
- a citizen of Singapore;
- ordinarily resident in Singapore; and
- not less than 21 years of age,
The register of electors is compiled from records kept by the National Registration Office.
The register of electors contains, amongst other things, the following:
- name of the constituency and its sub-division known as polling districts; and
particulars of the electors:
- serial no;
A register is prepared for each constituency. As we now have 27 constituencies, 27 registers are prepared.
After the registers have been prepared, they will have to be exhibited for people to submit claims or raise objections. After this is done, the registers will be certified and will be used for the election until new ones are prepared.
Conduct of Election
As required by law, the President of the Republic of Singapore, when advised by the Prime Minister, will:
- dissolve Parliament; and
- issue Writ of Election to the Returning Officer.
Writ of Election
The writ will specify:
- when the nomination of candidates is to be taken (not earlier than 5 days nor later than one month from date of the writ); and
- the place of nomination.
Notice of Election
After the President has issued the writ, the Returning Officer will issue a notice stipulating:
- the date, time and place for nomination of candidates;
- the nomination paper to be signed by :
- the candidate;
- the proposer;
- the seconder; and
- at least four assentors.
- the payment of deposit (a sum equal to 8% of the total allowances payable to MPs in the preceding year, rounded to the nearest $500).
Candidates are required to present their nomination papers and certificates to the Returning Officer, in duplicate and in person, at the nomination centre between 11 a.m. and 12 noon, accompanied by their proposers, seconders and at least 4 assentors.
At the close of the nomination period, where there is only one candidate (SMC), or one group of candidates (GRC) stands nominated, the (Assistant) Returning Officer will declare at the nomination centre that the candidate or the group of candidates have been returned as MP(s).
Where more than 1 candidate (SMC) or more than 1 group of candidates (GRC) stand nominated, the Returning Officer will adjourn the election to a date where a poll will be taken, ie. Polling Day.
Notice of Contested Election
The Returning Officer will then issue the notice of contested elections giving:
- the date of the poll (not earlier than the 10th day, and not later than the 56th day after publication of notice);
- the names of candidates, their symbols, proposers and seconders; and
- the names and locations of all polling stations.
Candidates can start campaigning after the notice of contested election is issued, up to the start of the day before Polling Day (which is the Cooling-Off Day). Candidates may also be given air-time by the television stations.
The campaigning activities are restricted to:
- conducting house-to-house visits;
- distributing pamphlets;
- putting up posters and banners;
- campaigning on perambulating vehicles;
- advertising on the Internet (within the confines of the rules regarding election advertising); and
- holding election rallies and meetings.
No candidate is allowed to advertise over television, in newspapers, magazines or periodicals, or in a public place, unless he is authorised to do so in accordance with the directions of the Returning Officer.
The maximum amount a candidate can spend on election expenses is:
- in the case of a GRC, an amount equal to $3.50 for each elector divided by the number of candidates in the group; or
- in the case of an SMC, an amount equal to $3.50 for each elector.
The eve of Polling Day is designated as Cooling-Off Day, a day when election campaigning is prohibited. This 24-hour campaign silence period is to give voters some time to reflect rationally on issues raised during the election before going to the polls.
There are some exceptions to the prohibition of campaign activities on Cooling-Off Day:
- Party political broadcasts on television;
- Reports in the newspapers, on radio and television relating to election matters;
- Approved posters and banners that were already up, and lawful Internet advertising that was already published before the eve of Polling Day;
- Books previously scheduled for publication;
- The transmission of personal political views by individuals to other individuals, on a non-commercial basis, using the Internet, telephone or electronic means; and
- Such activities or circumstances as may be prescribed by the Minister.
The above exception list, other than party political broadcast, also applies to Polling Day.
Persons, whose names are found in the current register of electors of a contested constituency, will receive a poll card which will be mailed to their latest NRIC address well before Polling Day.
On Polling Day, they can go to their assigned polling stations to cast their votes any time between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. After the close of the polls, the ballot boxes containing the votes cast will be sealed and transported to the respective counting centres.
Singapore citizens abroad who have been registered as overseas electors can cast their votes at the overseas polling stations allotted to them.
Polling overseas may take place before polling starts in Singapore but has to close before polling ends in Singapore. After an overseas poll is closed, the ballot boxes will be brought back to Singapore for counting and they must reach the Returning Officer not later than 10 days after Polling Day.
Counting of Votes
After the count, the Assistant Returning Officer will transmit the results of counting to the Returning Officer at the principal counting place. The Returning Officer will compile the results received from all counting centres in Singapore. If the overseas votes have no impact on the outcome of the election, the Returning Officer will declare the candidate or (as the case may be) group of candidates to whom the greatest number of votes is given to be elected. If the overseas votes have impact on the outcome, the Returning Officer will announce the number of votes cast in Singapore in favour of the candidate or (as the case may be) group of candidates and will defer the declaration of the candidate or (as the case may be) group of candidates elected until the day the overseas votes are counted. After counting the overseas votes, the final results will be published in the Singapore Government Gazette.
Election Expenses Returns
The election agents of all candidates who contested in a general election must submit a declaration and a return of election expenses to the Returning Officer within 31 days of the day on which the result of the election is published in the Singapore Government Gazette.
Where an election agent authorises the candidate’s political party or an authorised officer of the party to incur election expenses or make payments for the purpose of the candidate’s election, that party or authorised officer is required to submit a statement, together with all relevant bills and receipts, showing the particulars of payment to the election agent concerned. Such payments must be reported in the candidate’s individual return by his election agent.
For Group Representation Constituency (GRC) candidates whose election agents have appointed each other as sub-agents to incur expenses for more than one candidates in the group, the principal election agent of the group has to file a declaration and consolidated return of election expenses incurred by the sub-agents, showing the payments made by the sub-agents on behalf of the candidates and the amount of those payments apportioned to each candidate. Such apportioned amounts must be reported by the candidates’ election agents in their individual returns.