Role of Elected Presidency in Singapore
#TriviaTuesday: Singaporeans will soon cast our votes for our new elected President. The role of a publicly elected Head of State was legislated in 1991 to strengthen checks and balances within the government, safeguard our national reserves, and ensure the integrity of the public service.
By design, the elected President has no executive or policymaking role. The Constitution clearly defines the role of the elected President to have custodial powers, but not executive ones.
Before 1991, our Presidents were appointed by the Parliament. The change to elected presidency was justified such that our Head of State needed a democratic mandate to wield additional constitutional powers.
Our first elected President, Mr Ong Teng Cheong, took office on 1 September 1993. Since then, we have had three other elected Presidents – Mr S. R. Nathan, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, and Mdm Halimah Yacob.
The second set of key changes to the elected presidency came in 2016 to “safeguard minority representation in the Presidency”. This ensures that the highest office in the land is accessible by members of our minority communities.
The role of our elected president includes:
(1) Constitutional: Since 1991, the President has the power to veto government budgets and key public appointments, with the advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers on such matters. The President acts as the guardian of our past reserves. To ensure the impartiality of the public sector, the President can veto the appointment of its key office holders such as the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, and Chief of Defence Force. The President’s concurrence is required for detention orders, investigations, and restraining orders under the Internal Security Act.
(2) Ceremonial: As Head of State, the President represents us at ceremonies domestically and internationally.
(3) Community: As a symbol of unity, the President is actively involved in the community, supporting various causes that make our society stronger.
Amid global uncertainty and domestic anxiety over the cost of living, we will soon elect a new President to unify our nation, guard our reserves, and represent our nation at home and to the world.