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Election for next president pushed back to September

This will avoid clash with Singapore's National Day celebrations in August, Chan Chun Sing tells Parliament

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Mr Chan says a September polling day for the next Singapore president would "reset the clock" and ensure future presidential election campaigns would take place outside of the National Day period, assuming presidents serve their full six-year terms.

Singapore

SINGAPOREANS will have to wait a little longer this year to cast their votes for their next president, after it was announced that the election will take place in September to prevent the campaign period from clashing with the National Day celebrations in August.

The next election is a historic one as it will be reserved for candidates from the Malay community, which means that the Republic is set to have its first Malay head of state in 47 years.

It was widely expected that Polling Day would be sometime in the later part of August - as was the case at the last presidential election in 2011 - given that President Tony Tan Keng Yam's six-year term expires on Aug 31.

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Speaking in parliament on Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said that a September polling day would "reset the clock" and ensure future presidential election campaigns would take place outside of the National Day period, assuming presidents serve their full six-year terms.

Mr Chan revealed that the Attorney-General's Chambers has confirmed that, under the laws, there can be an interval between the expiry of the incumbent's term and the new president being sworn in.

The Constitution provides for an acting president to step in and exercise the powers of Singapore's highest office in the meantime.

This person would be the chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA). If he is unavailable for some reason, then the Speaker of Parliament would be the next in line.

The current CPA chairman and Speaker are JY Pillay and Halimah Yacob respectively. Mr Chan said that the period during which the Acting President shall exercise the functions should not exceed one month, from Sept 1 until the new President assumes office.

During the debate on the amendments to the Presidential Elections Bill, Mr Chan also announced several changes to the campaign rules in a bid to deal with the problem of divisiveness.

The Constitutional Commission set up to study and propose changes to the Elected Presidency system last year had suggested that there should be a clear distinction in campaign methods for presidential elections and parliamentary elections.

Mr Chan said the government agreed with this view, adding that campaigning for the presidential polls "must not inflame emotions and must be in keeping with the decorum and dignity of the office of the President".

For the upcoming election, the government will no longer designate a specific set of rally sites that can be used during the campaign period.

This, said Mr Chan, is in line with the government's and the commission's position not to encourage rallies. Rallies, by their nature and format, could be "divisive and not congruent" with the unifying role of the Elected Presidency.

Candidates who still want to hold a rally, however, can do so after they apply for a permit. The police will assess the applications based on public order and security considerations.

Mr Chan added that the government will encourage candidates to use platforms and channels that reach out to voters at a national level.

He said that the government would increase the amount of TV airtime for candidates and would announce details of this at a later date.

Candidates can also continue to make use of social media to reach out to the electorate. They can also organise indoor private sessions to engage specific groups of voters.

Those from the Malay community who intend to contest the upcoming election can apply for the certificate of eligibility (COE) from June 1, which is exactly three months before the end of the President's term.

The deadline to apply for this document will be extended to five days after the Prime Minister issues the writ of election, up from the current three days, to give candidates more time to prepare.

The minimum interval between the writ's issuance and Nomination Day will be increased from five days to 10 days, to allow the Presidential Elections Committee more time to assess applications for the COE.

Candidates also need to obtain the all-important community certificate that clearly states the specific community that he or she belongs to.

Should Nomination Day fail to produce at least one eligible Malay candidate for this reserved election, the Prime Minister will then issue a fresh writ to hold an open election.

 

Note: An earlier version stated that 'The longest that an acting president is allowed to serve in that role is one month from Sept 1.'  MCI has since clarified that 'Mr Chan said that the period during which the Acting President shall exercise the functions should not exceed one month, from Sept 1 until the new President assumes office.' The article above has been revised to reflect this.

 

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