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. By-elections are held when the seat in Parliament for a Single Member Constituency (SMC) is vacated or when all Members of Parliament (MPs) for a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) vacate their seats.
Legislation governing the conduct of the Parliamentary elections comprise:
- Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (The Legislature - Part VI);
- Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218);
- Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Act 2020;
- Political Donations Act (Chapter 236);
- Key Subsidiary Legislation.
Our Parliament is single house and comprises three types of 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.
Elected MPs could be returned from the SMCs and GRCs. Each SMC returns one MP while each GRC can have three to six 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. Currently, we have 13 SMCs and 16 GRCs making a total of 29 constituencies and 89 MPs.
Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) are chosen from candidates of a political party or parties not forming the Government. With the latest amendments to the Constitution, the computation of the maximum number of NCMPs allowed in Parliament at any given time is:
|No. of NCMPs||=||12||-||Total No. of Elected Opposition
MPs in Parliament
The NCMPs seats are declared elected amongst the candidates of the Opposition parties contesting the general election on the basis of the highest percentage of votes polled by these candidates. (Details are spelt out in Section 52 of the Act.)
Conduct of Election
As required under the Parliamentary Elections Act, the entire election period begins with the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, dissolving the Parliament and issuing the Writ of Election to the Returning Officer to direct him to hold an election.
Writ of Election
The Writ is a public document which specifies:
- the date when the nomination of candidates is to be taken (not earlier than five days nor later than one month from date of the Writ); and
- the place of nomination.
Notice of Election
Once the Writ of Election is issued, the Returning Officer will issue a notice stipulating the date, time and place for nomination of candidates.
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 am and 12 noon, accompanied by their proposers, seconders and at least four assentors.
At the close of the nomination period, where only one candidate (SMC), or one group of candidates (GRC) stands nominated, the Returning Officer will declare at the nomination centre that the candidate or the group of candidates have been elected and will be returned as MP(s). This is also called a walkover.
Where more than one candidate (SMC) or more than one group of candidates (GRC) stand nominated in a particular electoral division, the Returning Officer will adjourn the election to a date where a poll will be taken, i.e. 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 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:
|SMC||Spending capped at $4.00 for each elector in that electoral division|
|GRC||Spending capped at $4.00 for each elector in that electoral division divided by the number of candidates in the group|
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 am and 8 pm. 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 zone, 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 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 that electoral division. As this is a sample count, the election result could be different. 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 or 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 group of candidates and will defer the declaration of the candidate or 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
At the end of the Parliamentary election, every candidate and the appointed election agent must account for all his election spending and submit a declaration as well as 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. 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 six months, after which they shall be destroyed, unless otherwise directed by order of the President. This is to ensure secrecy of the vote.