The President is the Head of State and hold office for a term of 6 years.
The President has two important roles – first, as a symbol and unifier of a diverse and multi-racial Singapore; and second, as a custodian of our nation’s past reserves and the integrity of our public service.
The first Presidential election was held on 28 August 1993.
Legislation governing the conduct of the Presidential election comprises:
Conduct of Election
The Presidential election has to be conducted as follows:
The Prime Minister will issue the Writ of Election to the Returning Officer to direct him to hold an election.
Elections are generally open to prospective candidates from all races. However, to ensure multi-racial representation in the Presidency, an election for the office of the President will be reserved for a certain community (i.e. Chinese, Malay or Indian and other minority communities) if no person belonging to that community has held the office of the President for any of the 5 most recent terms of office.
Open elections are to be held if no candidate is successfully nominated at a reserved election. In such an eventuality, the Prime Minister will issue a fresh Writ declaring an open election or a reserved election for the next eligible community, where applicable.
Writ of Election
The Writ is a public document which specifies:
The Writ will declare if the election is an open or reserved election.
Notice of Election
Once the Writ of Election is issued, the Returning Officer will issue a notice stipulating the date, time and place for the nomination of candidates.
Prospective candidates who wish to contest in the Presidential elections must submit applications to both the PEC and the Community Committee. Where an applicant applies to only one of the two committees, his application to that committee will not be processed.
The deadline for submission of the community declaration and to apply for the Certificate of Eligibility is 5 days after the date of the Writ of Election.
Prospective candidates are required to submit 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 proposer, seconder and at least four assentors.
At the close of the nomination period, where only one candidate stands nominated, the Returning Officer will declare the nominated candidate elected to the office of President.
Where more than one candidate stands nominated, the Returning Officer will adjourn the election to a date where a poll will be taken, i.e. Polling Day. The Returning Officer will allot to each candidate an approved symbol.
Notice of Contested Election
The Returning Officer will then issue the notice of contested elections giving:
Candidates can start campaigning after the notice of contested election is issued, up to the start of Cooling-off Day (which is the day before Polling Day).
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 by the Returning Officer.
The maximum amount a candidate can spend on election expenses is $600,000 or an amount equal to 30 cents per elector on the registers of electors, whichever is the greater.
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, which also applies to Polling Day.
On Polling Day, qualified electors can go to their allotted polling stations to cast their votes any time between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Overseas Singaporeans who are registered as overseas electors can cast their votes at the overseas polling stations allotted to them.
Due to difference in time zones, voting at some overseas polling stations may take place before the poll starts in Singapore. However, all overseas polling stations have to close before the poll 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 within 10 days after Polling Day in Singapore in order for the votes contained in that ballot box to be counted. The Returning Officer has the discretion to extend time by another 7 days for the overseas ballot boxes to reach Singapore if the total number of overseas electors is material to the election outcome and the Returning Officer is satisfied that any of the overseas ballot boxes is not likely to reach Singapore within the initial 10-day period.
After the close of polls in Singapore, the ballot boxes containing the votes cast will be sealed and transported to the respective counting centres.
A sample count is performed at the start of the counting process to get an early indication of the possible electoral outcome for the election. As the election result can be different from the sample count, the public should wait for the Returning Officer’s announcement to know the election result.
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 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 each candidate and will defer the declaration of the candidate 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
At the end of the Presidential election, every candidate and the appointed election agent must account for all his election expenses and submit a declaration as well as a return of election expenses to the Returning Officer within 31 days after the day on which the result of the election is published in the Singapore Government Gazette. Thereafter, these election expenses will be opened to members of the public for inspection for a period of six months. More details on the election expenses can be found here.
Destruction of Ballot Papers
After the count, ballot papers and other documents used in an election shall be sealed and retained in safe custody for a period of 6 months, after which they shall be destroyed, unless otherwise directed by order of the President. This is to ensure secrecy of the vote.