The office of Elected President in Singapore #TIL
📷: Incumbent President Halimah Yacob as our Head of State, PM Lee Hsien Loong as our Head of Government, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon as our Head of the Judiciary, and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin as the Head of the Legislature. (Parliament of Singapore)
#TIL The office of Elected President in Singapore was a major innovation when it was legislated in 1991, with no precedent anywhere else. Prior to that, our President had been appointed by Parliament. In 1984, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew broached the idea of having a president who could help safeguard the national reserves: after extensive Parliamentary proceedings, the first White Paper was published and debated, then the second White Paper went through extensive debate before it was legislated, operated on, and amended over the years. Our first PE was held on 28 August 1993 and Mr Ong Teng Cheong became our first Elected President.
Over the years, the office of our Head of State has been carefully customised for our unique set of circumstances, calibrated the #SingaporeWay by using knowledge from real-world experience. At the debate on President’s Address on 27 January 2016, PM Lee Hsien Loong said: “The President has a role. It is a difficult system to get right but we have to adjust it, try and get it more right than wrong over a period of time, and not abandon the project altogether and leave ourselves naked and defenceless against all the difficulties which the elected President enables us to avoid.”
The President’s Duties span three areas:
(1) Constitutional: Since 1991, the President is empowered to veto government budgets and key public appointments if there are reasons to do so, with the advice of Council of Presidential Advisers on such matters. The President acts as the guardian of Past Reserves which includes reserves of key statutory boards and government companies. And to ensure the impartiality of the public sector and government companies, the President can veto the appointment or removal of key office holders in the public service listed such as the Chief Justice, Judges of the Supreme Court, Attorney-General, Auditor-General, Director of Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, Chairman and members of the Public Service Commission, Chief of Defence Force and Commissioner of Police. The President’s concurrence is required for detention orders, investigations and restraining orders under the Internal Security Act.
(2) Ceremonial: As the Head of State, the President is the figure representing Singapore at ceremonies domestically and internationally.
(3) Community: As a symbol of unity, the President is actively involved in the community, supporting various causes including volunteerism, social entrepreneurship, sports, culture and the arts.
By design, the Elected President has no executive, policy-making role — that remains the prerogative of the elected Government commanding the majority in Parliament. PM Lee pointed out: “For the system to work, both candidates and voters have to understand this because otherwise, if you have a President who thinks he is the Government, competing with the Government, you have two power centres in the system. At the very least you have confusion, you could have an impasse between the two and the democratically elected Government will be undermined. As the Chinese phrase goes “天无二日, 国无二君”, you have no two suns in the sky, you have no two Governments in a country.”
In Nov 2016, constitutional amendments were passed to reserve the elected presidency for candidates of a particular racial group if there has not been a president from the group for the five most recent presidential terms. This is to reflect the multiracial character of our country. Consequently, the 2017 poll became a reserved election where qualified candidates had to come from the Malay community.
Our incumbent President Mdm Halimah Yacob has announced that she would not be running for a second presidential term, so a Presidential Election would be called by 13 Sep this year. Singaporeans will soon cast our votes for a new Head of State, elected by our people to guard our reserves, ensure an impartial public sector, unify our communities and represent our nation at home and to the world.
Read the President’s Duties here https://www.istana.gov.sg/The-President/Presidents-Duties/Constitutional and https://www.mof.gov.sg/policies/reserves/what-is-the-president-s-role-in-safeguarding-the-reserves?fbclid=IwAR2IzrWURNnfHFcsk_d9sheIYK0JRfDNfl9-67zItnQAboUaF72Tv6V_FJw
For more information on the Presidential Elections, read https://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_presidential.html?fbclid=IwAR1IjdW51CNwR9qntr2geIVaXmoNkxZnYVDwNQuQT0dtaGexXb6nm33k42w
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