Elections in Singapore

There are currently two types of elections in Singapore: parliamentary and presidential elections. According to the Constitution of Singapore, general elections for Parliament must be conducted within three months of the dissolution of Parliament, which has a maximum term of five years from the first sitting of Parliament, and presidential elections are conducted every six years.

The Parliament of Singapore is unicameral with 93 seats. Since the legislative assembly election in 1959, the People's Action Party (PAP) has had an overwhelming majority, and for nearly two decades was the only political party to win any seats, and has always formed the Government of Singapore.

Parliamentary electionsEdit

From Singapore's independence in 1965, to 1981, the People's Action Party (PAP) won every single seat in every election held, forming a parliament with no elected opposition MP for almost two decades. In Singapore, opposition politicians and trade unionists were detained in prison without trial before the 1960s and early 1970s. Many such as Lim Chin Siong, Said Zahari and Lim Hock Siew were accused by the government of being involved in subversive communist struggles. Among them, Chia Thye Poh was detained the longest; he was detained for 23 years without any trial.

From 1984, opposition politicians began being elected in parliament. Two out of the 74 seats went to opposition politicians. Subsequently, in 1988, the PAP won 76 out of the 77 seats; in 1991, PAP won 77 seats out of the 81 seats. In 1997, 2001 and 2006, two opposition candidates were elected during each respective parliamentary election. In 1988, former Solicitor-General of Singapore and opposition politician, Francis Seow was also detained without trial. He was later charged with tax evasion but he fled overseas and sought asylum successfully in the United States. He was convicted of tax evasion in absentia. Workers' Party member Gopalan Nair also fled Singapore in the 1990s.[1] Catherine Lim argues that a climate of fear hurts Singapore.[2] Prominent opposition politicians bankrupted and/or jailed in the 20th century also include J. B. Jeyaretnam, Tang Liang Hong and Chee Soon Juan.[3]

The campaigning time for elections in Singapore remains very short in the 21st century. The legal minimum campaign time, from when the election is announced to polling day, is nine days. This minimum campaigning time is generally used in the elections held in Singapore.[4] The announcement of the election follows the announcement of new constituency boundaries.[4]

Since the implementation of the Group Representation Constituency (GRC), critics have accused the governing party of gerrymandering.[5] The electoral system reduces the chances of opposition representation in Parliament with a "winner takes all" system. As pointed by NGO group Maruah Singapore, it "creates a barrier to entry" for smaller opposition political parties to contest in the general elections as they may find it hard to field a five-member team of talents, it also allows for the "free-riding of untested candidates" who get in on the back of stronger team members, such as the PAP candidates brought in to the Tanjong Pagar GRC, which was uncontested for 14 years when helmed by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.[6] The Elections Department, in charge of redrawing electoral boundaries without the need of parliamentary approval, was established as part of the executive branch under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), rather than as an independent body.[7][8] Critics have accused it of giving the governing party the power to decide polling districts and polling sites through electoral engineering, based on poll results in previous elections.[9] Opposition politician Sylvia Lim has stated in Parliament, “The entire electoral boundary re-drawing process is completely shrouded in secrecy, chaired by the secretary to the Cabinet. There are no public hearings, no minutes of meeting published. The revised boundaries are released weeks or even days before Nomination Day. The report makes no attempt to explain why certain single seats are retained while others are dissolved, nor why new GRCs are created or old ones re-shaped.”[10] Cheng San GRC and Eunos GRC were examples of constituencies dissolved by the Elections Department after opposition parties gained ground in elections, with voters redistributed to other constituencies.[8]

However, Freedom House has noted that elections in Singapore are technically free of electoral fraud.[11] Throughout the history of the Republic of Singapore, hundreds of politicians have been elected in Parliament, of whom majority of unique candidates represent the governing People's Action Party including late stalwarts like Lee Khoon Choy.[12] Since 1965, 19 opposition politicians have been elected into Parliament, including J. B. Jeyaretnam, Chiam See Tong, Low Thia Khiang, Ling How Doong, Cheo Chai Chen, Chen Show Mao, Yaw Shin Leong, Png Eng Huat, Lee Li Lian, and also ten incumbent candidates from the Workers' Party including Secretary-General Pritam Singh, Chairwoman Sylvia Lim and MP Faisal Manap.

2020 general electionEdit

A general election was called on 23 June 2020,[13] with Singaporeans electing their Members of Parliament (MPs) on 10 July 2020.[14]

People's Action Party1,527,49161.23830
Workers' Party279,92211.2210+4
Progress Singapore Party253,99610.180New
Singapore Democratic Party111,0544.4500
National Solidarity Party93,6533.7500
Peoples Voice59,1832.370New
Reform Party54,5992.1900
Singapore People's Party37,9981.5200
Singapore Democratic Alliance37,2371.4900
Red Dot United31,2601.250New
People's Power Party7,4890.3000
Valid votes2,494,53798.20
Invalid/blank votes45,8221.80
Total votes2,540,359100.00
Registered voters/turnout2,651,43595.81
Source: Singapore Elections

Presidential electionsEdit

Presidential elections have been held since 1993. Under the "Presidential Elections Act",[15] to run for president, one must obtain a "certificate of eligibility" from the Presidential Elections Committee. To obtain this certificate the candidate must:

  • Be a citizen of Singapore.[16]
  • Be at least 45 years of age.[17]
  • Be a registered voter.[18]
  • Be a resident in Singapore at the date of their nomination for election and a resident for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than ten years prior to that date.[19]
  • Not be subject to any of the following disqualifications:[20]
(a) being and having been found or declared to be of unsound mind;
(b) being an undischarged bankrupt;
(c) holding an office of profit;
(d) having been nominated for election to Parliament or the office of President or having acted as election agent to a person so nominated, failing to lodge any return of election expenses required by law within the time and in the manner so required;
(e) having been convicted of an offence by a court of law in Singapore or Malaysia and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to a fine of not less than S$2,000 and having not received a free pardon, provided that where the conviction is by a court of law in Malaysia, the person shall not be disqualified unless the offence is also one which, had it been committed in Singapore, would have been punishable by a court of law in Singapore;[21]
(f) having voluntarily acquired the citizenship of, or exercised rights of citizenship in, a foreign country, or having made a declaration of allegiance to a foreign country;[22]
(g) being disqualified under any law relating to offences in connection with elections to Parliament or the office of President by reason of having been convicted of such an offence or having in proceedings relating to such an election been proved guilty of an act constituting such an offence.

Because of the high requirements needed to run for presidential elections, many presidential elections have been uncontested. All presidential elections have been walkovers except for the first one, held in 1993 which was contested by two people, and the 2011 one, contested by four people. The first presidential election was won by Ong Teng Cheong, a former member of the PAP. Subsequent presidential elections in 1999 and 2005 have been won by S. R. Nathan through walkovers.

The 2011 presidential election was contested by Tony Tan Keng Yam, Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian. All candidates except Tan Jee Say were former members of the PAP, whose closest relation to the party was when he served as then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's principal private secretary from 1985 to 1990. The election was won by Tony Tan with a margin of 0.34% over Tan Cheng Bock.

2011 presidential election resultsEdit

Tony Tan745,69335.20
Tan Cheng Bock738,31134.85
Tan Jee Say530,44125.04
Tan Kin Lian104,0954.91
Valid votes2,118,54098.24
Invalid/blank votes37,8491.76
Total votes2,156,389100.00
Registered voters/turnout2,274,77394.80
Source: Singapore Elections

2017 presidential electionEdit

The 2017 presidential election was won by Halimah Yacob through an uncontested walkover.


A referendum may also be held for important national issues, although it has been held only once in Singapore's political history for the 1962 merger referendum. Calls for a national referendum has been made since then, including the issue over the building of casinos in Singapore.

Past electionsEdit

Legislative Council electionsEdit

Legislative Assembly electionsEdit

As State of MalaysiaEdit

Parliamentary electionsEdit

Other electionsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Nair, Gopalan. "Singapore Dissident". Singapore Dissident. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  2. ^ Loo, Daryl (14 December 2007). "Climate of fear hurts Singapore: author". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  3. ^ FreedomHouse. "Freedom of the World 2011 Singapore report". Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  4. ^ a b Diane K. Muazy and R. S. Milne, Singapore Under the People's Action Party (London, 2002), p. 143.
  5. ^ Channel NewsAsia, "More detailed explanation needed to fend off gerrymandering claims: Analysts", August 3, 2015
  6. ^ Koh, Gillian (27 August 2013). "GRC system and politics of inclusion" (PDF). The Straits Times. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  7. ^ Prime Minister's Office, Our Departments Archived 7 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b Tan, Netina (14 July 2013). "Manipulating electoral laws in Singapore, Electoral Studies". Electoral Studies (Special Symposium: The new research agenda on electoral integrity). doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2013.07.014. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  9. ^ Electoral Engineering: Voting Rules and Political Behavior, Pippa Norris
  10. ^ "Singapore Parliament Reports - Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill". 26 April 2010. Archived from the original on 27 August 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  11. ^ "Map of Freedom in the World: Singapore (2009)". Freedom House. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  12. ^ Ong, Andrea (3 July 2013). "Ex-MP and diplomat launches book on multi-ethnic Chinese descendants in SEA". The Straits Times. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  13. ^ "PM Lee calls for polls; Parliament dissolved and writ issued for General Election". TODAYonline. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  14. ^ "GE2020: Nomination Day on June 30; Polling Day on July 10". TODAYOnline. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  15. ^ "PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ACT". Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  16. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(2)(a).
  17. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(2)(b).
  18. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(2)(c) read with Art. 44(2)(c).
  19. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(2)(c) read with Art. 44(2)(d).
  20. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(2)(d) read with Art. 45.
  21. ^ The disqualification of a person under clauses (d) and (e) may be removed by the President and shall, if not so removed, cease at the end of five years beginning from the date on which the return mentioned in clause (d) was required to be lodged or, as the case may be, the date on which the person convicted as mentioned in clause (e) was released from custody or the date on which the fine mentioned in clause (1) (e) was imposed on such person: Constitution, Art. 45(2).
  22. ^ A person shall not be disqualified under this clause by reason only of anything done by him before he became a citizen of Singapore: Constitution, Art. 45(2). In clause (f), "foreign country" does not include any part of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland: Art. 45(3).
  23. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(2)(e).
  24. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(2)(f).
  25. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(3)(a).
  26. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(3)(b) read with the Fifth Schedule.
  27. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(4), read with Art. 19(7).
  28. ^ Constitution, Art. 19(3)(c) and Art 19(4)(b).

External linksEdit