President of Singapore

President of Singapore

The President of the Republic of Singapore is Singapore's head of state. In a Westminster parliamentary system, which Singapore possesses, the prime minister is the head of the government while the position of president is largely ceremonial. Before 1993, the President of Singapore was appointed by Parliament. Following constitutional changes brought into force in 1991, the President became a popularly-elected post. The first elected President was Ong Teng Cheong, who served from 1 September 1993 to 31 August 1999. The current President of Singapore is S.R. Nathan, who first became the head of state in 18 August 1999 and is presently serving his second term of office.

The President is a ceremonial head of state broadly analogous to the British monarch, but the 1991 constitutional amendments gave the President certain reserve powers over government expenditure of financial reserves and appointments to key public offices. The President's official residence is the Istana.


The office of President was created in 1965 after Singapore became a republic upon its secession from the Federation of Malaysia that year. It replaced the office of "Yang di-Pertuan Negara", which had been created when Singapore attained self-government in 1959. The last "Yang di-Pertuan Negara", Yusof bin Ishak, became the first President. He was replaced by Benjamin Henry Sheares after his death, who served as President until his death in 1981, when he was succeeded by Chengara Veetil Devan Nair. Owing to personal problems, Nair stepped down in 1985 and was replaced by Wee Kim Wee, who served as President until 1993.

In January 1991, the Constitution of Singapore [Singapore Constitution|rep=1999.] was amended to provide for the popular election of the President. The creation of the elected presidency was a major constitutional and political change in Singapore's history as, under the revision, the President is empowered to veto the use of government reserves and appointments to key civil service appointments. He or she can also examine the administration's enforcement of the Internal Security Act [Singapore Statute|title=Internal Security Act|c
] and Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, [Singapore Statute|title=Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act|c
] and look into investigations of corruption.

The first and only directly-elected President was Ong Teng Cheong, a former cabinet minister. He served as President from 1 September 1993 to 31 August 1999. By virtue of transitional provisions in the Singapore Constitution, [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 163(1).] although Ong's predecessor Wee Kim Wee was not elected as President, because he held the office of President immediately prior to 30 November 1991 he exercised, performed and discharged all the functions, powers and duties of an elected president as if he had been elected to the office of President by the citizens of Singapore until Ong Teng Cheong took office as President.

In 1996, the government limited the powers of the President, when it amended the Constitution to provide that a presidential veto can be overridden with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The incumbent President is Sellapan Ramanathan, widely known as S.R. Nathan. He was not directly elected by the people, but became the President by virtue of being the sole candidate deemed qualified by the Presidential Elections Committee. His first term of office was from 18 August 1999 to 31 August 2005. He was re-elected after a walkover on 17 August 2005. His current term of office will expire in 2011.


To be qualified to be elected President, a person must satisfy the following requirements:
*He must be a citizen of Singapore. [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(a).]
*He must not be less than 45 years of age. [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(b).]
*His name must appear in a current register of electors. [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(c) read with Art. 44(2)(c).]
*He must be resident in Singapore at the date of his nomination for election and must have been so resident for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than ten years prior to that date. [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(c) read with Art. 44(2)(d).]
*He must not be subject to any of the following disqualifications: [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(d) read with Art. 45.] ::(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; [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: Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 45(2).] ::(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; [A person shall not be disqualified under this clause by reason only of anything done by him before he became a citizen of Singapore: Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 45(2). In clause (f), "foreign country" does not include any part of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland: Art. 45(3).] ::(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.
*He must satisfy the Presidential Elections Committee that he is a person of integrity, good character and reputation. [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(e).]
*He must not be a member of any political party on the date of his nomination for election. [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(f).]
*He must have for a period of not less than three years held office —
**as Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or Permanent Secretary; [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(g)(i).]
**as chairman or chief executive officer of the Central Provident Fund Board, the Housing and Development Board, the Jurong Town Corporation or the Monetary Authority of Singapore; [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(g)(ii) read with Art. 22A(3) and Pt. I of the Fifth Schedule.]
**as chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act [Cap. 50, 2006 Rev. Ed. (S'pore).] with a paid-up capital of at least S$100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency; [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(g)(iii).] or
**in any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President. [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 19(2)(g)(iv).]


Once elected, the President shall —

*not hold any other office created or recognised by the Singapore Constitution;
*not actively engage in any commercial enterprise;
*not be a member of any political party; and
*if he is a member of Parliament, vacate his seat in Parliament. [Singapore Constitution, above, Arts. 19(3)(a)–(d).]

Term of office

The President holds office for a term of six years from the date on which he assumes office.

The person elected to the office of President assumes office on the day his predecessor ceases to hold office or, if the office is vacant, on the day following his election.

Upon his assumption of office, the President is required to take and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice or of another Justice of the Supreme Court the Oath of Office, which states: [Singapore Constitution, above, Arts. 20(1)–20(3) and the First Schedule.]

Maintenance: The Civil List

The Legislature of Singapore is required to provide a Civil List for the maintenance of the President, [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 22J(1).] and it does so by way of the Civil List and Pension Act. [Singapore Statute|title=Civil List and Pension Act|c
] For the fiscal year 2006, the President's personal pay, known by the British term the "privy purse", is S$2,661,700, an increase from the previous figure of S$2,507,200, while his entertainment allowance is S$132,000, up from S$117,000. The amount set aside for expenses at the Istana is S$1,301,500 up from S$1,108,500. Minister of State (Finance) Lim Hwee Hua told Parliament on 23 January 2007 that the increases were "in view of higher bonuses and higher expenditure on utilities".

Expenditure on personal staff and special services has been lowered by S$8,800 for personal staff and by S$28,300 for special services such as the purchase of cars and office equipment. [cite news|last=Paulo|first=Derrick A.|title=Parliament Raises President's Pay|url=|publisher="Today"|date=2007-01-24]


Presidential Elections Committee

The Presidential Elections Committee is established by Article 18 of the Constitution. Its function is to ensure that candidates for the office of President have the qualifications referred to in Article 19 of the Constitution. [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 18(1).]

The Committee consists of: [Singapore Constitution, above, Arts. 18(2)(a)–(c).]

*the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Elections Committee; [Singapore Constitution, above, Art. 18(3).]
*the Chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority; and
*a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights nominated by the Chairman of the Council.

For the Singapore Presidential Election of 2005, the members of the Presidential Elections Committee were Dr. Andrew Chew Guan Khuan (Chairman), Lim Siong Guan and H.R. Hochstadt. [citation|title=Presidential Elections Committee (No. 1342 of 2005)|url=|journal=Government Gazette|date=2007-05-27.]

Latest election

During the election of 2005, just like that of 1999, no balloting was held. As the Presidential Elections Committee determined that no other candidates satisfied the qualifications prescribed by the Constitution, S.R. Nathan was declared President unopposed.

Singapore presidential election, 2005

List of Presidents of the Republic of Singapore

Prior to the introduction of elections for the Presidency, between 1965 and 1993 the Presidents of Singapore were Malay, Eurasian, Indian and Chinese in turn. While there might have been some general expectation that a system of rotation among the ethnic groups in Singapore would have continued to apply, this possibility was put to rest by the introduction of an elected Presidency in 1991. There are no constitutional provisions specifying that such system should apply.

All the Presidents of Singapore to date have been men. Nonetheless, in a 2008 poll of 1,256 Singaporeans conducted by, a lifestyle research portal run by Singapore Telecommunications, 63% of women respondents and 58% of male respondents said they would vote for a female president. Those aged 50 and older were the most receptive to the idea. [cite news|author=Ansley Ng|title=Madam President? Yes, says 1 in 2|work=Today|date=2008-08-06]


Further reading

*cite book|last=Tan|first=Kevin Y.L. (Yew Lee)|coauthors=Lam Peng Er (eds.)|title=Managing Political Change in Singapore : The Elected Presidency|publisher=Routledge|date=1997|location=Singapore|id=ISBN 0415156327

External links

* [ Official website of the Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore]

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