Other points addressed in Justice Quentin Loh's 65-page judgment

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE RESERVED ELECTIONS?

Senior Counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah, for Dr Tan Cheng Bock, said it is to address a specific problem: the possibility that open elections will not result in minority candidates winning from time to time.

By this measure, only the term of a popularly elected president should be considered in determining when to trigger reserved elections, he said.

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair said the aim of reserved elections is to ensure multiracial representation in the office.

The fact that there has not been a Malay president for a long time, he added, is troubling regardless of how presidents are elected.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

Justice Quentin Loh, agreeing with Mr Hri Kumar, said: "The recent constitutional amendments reflect a re-emphasis on the president's unifying role and the conviction that, in order for the president to fulfil that role, that office must reflect the multiracial character of our country."

Interpreting the law in this light, he said, it made no difference that Mr Wee Kim Wee - the first president vested with powers of the elected presidency - was elected by Parliament and not the people.

Parliamentary debates on the issue cited by both sides also show that Parliament was aware of the Government's intention when it passed the laws, he added.

Starting the count from Mr Wee's term ensures that "after a passage of 46 years... Singapore will have its first Malay president since Mr Yusof Ishak", he said.

SHOULD ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S ADVICE MATTER?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said during parliamentary debates: "We have taken the Attorney-General's advice. We will start counting from the first president who exercised the powers of the elected president, in other words, Mr Wee Kim Wee."

This was cited by both sides to support their case.

Mr Hri Kumar said this meant Parliament was aware of the intention to count from Mr Wee's term when it passed the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 2017, which spells out the nuts and bolts of the reserved elections.

Mr Rajah contended that the Attorney-General's advice was wrong, and asked the court not to put too much weight on Parliament's intention.

Justice Loh said: "I do not know what the Attorney-General's advice was. But more importantly, the reason I have placed weight on the relevant statements is because they reflect Parliament's intention."

He said that ultimately, Parliament had decided on the reserved elections with the knowledge that it allows Mr Wee's term to be counted.

Whether this was based on the Attorney-General's advice or otherwise is not relevant, he added.

DID DR TAN HAVE STANDING TO LAUNCH A LEGAL CHALLENGE?

Justice Loh also ruled that Dr Tan had standing to bring the challenge to court.

Although it was not a subject of contention, he addressed it, saying he considered several reasons.

He said Dr Tan got a "very credible number of votes" in the 2011 Presidential Election, and had publicly announced his intention last year to stand again.

Reserving the coming election for Malays disqualifies Dr Tan from running, and if the counting of the five terms was unconstitutional, Dr Tan may then be a candidate.

Citing these reasons, Justice Loh said Dr Tan has satisfied the requirements of having the standing to bring the challenge to court.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Other points addressed in Justice Quentin Loh's 65-page judgment'. Print Edition | Subscribe