Constitutional panel formed to review president's powers, election process

The powers of the president and the elaborate and strict eligibility norms for contesting the election will be under review.

Singapore has formed a high-profile constitutional commission to review the elected presidency system.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said last month a high-level committee would be set up to make recommendations on the elected presidency system which has been in place since 1991, ahead of presidential elections scheduled for August 2017.

Primarily two aspects of the presidency and the presidential election process will be under the review by the commission -- the powers of the president and the elaborate and strict eligibility norms for contesting the election.

The 9-member panel will be headed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon. The other members include judges, senior government officials and members from public and private sectors.

Citizens will be invited to submit their views and recommendations on the elected presidency in due course.


The president is directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a single 6-year term. Singapore has put in place strict eligibility criteria for anyone planning to run for president.

The election system stipulates that all candidates should get the certificates of eligibility issued by the Presidential Elections Committee.

In 1999 and 2005 incumbent candidates were elected unopposed as nobody else cleared the eligibility criteria.

The 2011 election was the first direct presidential election in 18 years in the country with four candidates in the fray.

The new Commission will review the qualifying process and recommend changes lf existing provisions are seen inadequate.

Presidential powers

The president is the head of state while the prime minister is the head of the government.

However, the president has significant powers in three areas -- protection of the state's reserves, appointment of key personnel including the chief justice and armed forces chief, and third, the use of internal security act.

The constitutional commission will review how these powers function and if changes to existing provisions are needed.

Another important area that will come under the review of the commission is the role and composition of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA).

The commission will also make provisions for safeguarding minority representation in the Presidency in order to establish "fair and adequate opportunity to be elected to Presidential office" to minority candidates.