Country Listing

Singapore Table of Contents


The Legislature

The legislature consists of the president and Parliament. Members must be citizens of Singapore, twenty-one years of age or older, on the current register of electors, able to communicate in either English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, or Tamil, and of sound mind. Membership ceases with the dissolution of a Parliament, which takes place every five years or at the initiative of the president. A general election must be held within three months of the dissolution of Parliament. Parliament convenes at least once a year, scheduling its meetings after the first session is summoned by the president. Members may speak in English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese or Tamil, and simultaneous translation is provided. Parliamentary procedure follows the British pattern: all bills are deliberated in three readings and passed by a simple majority. Only the government may introduce money bills, those that allocate public funds and so provide for the ongoing operations of the state. Once passed, bills become laws with the assent of the president and publication in the official Gazette.

The final step in the passage of laws is the examination of bills by the Presidential Council for Minority Rights. The council, established by the Constitution (Amendment) Act of 1969, must determine if bills or other proposed legislation discriminate against any religious or ethnic community or otherwise contravene the fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. It also renders advisory opinions on matters affecting ethnic and religious communities that are referred to the council by the Parliament or government. The council is composed of ten members appointed for life and ten members and a chairman appointed for three-year terms by the president on the advice of the cabinet. Any bill on which the council renders an adverse opinion may not become law unless modified to its satisfaction or passed by two-thirds of the Parliament. The council has no jurisdiction over money bills or over any bill certified by the prime minister as affecting the defense or security of Singapore or the country's "public safety, peace, or good order." In addition, bills certified by the prime minister as so urgent that it is not in the public interest to delay their enactment are also exempted from review by the council.

Data as of December 1989