Parliament: More time for presidential hopefuls to get their papers in order

Among the proposed changes to the Presidential Elections Act is one that will give candidates more time for to prepare their applications, which now require more information.
Among the proposed changes to the Presidential Elections Act is one that will give candidates more time for to prepare their applications, which now require more information. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Presidential hopefuls will get more time to submit their papers, and the committee tasked to decide if they qualify to run for office will also have more time to vet the applications.

These are among some of the changes to the Presidential Elections Act proposed in Parliament on Monday (Jan 9).

They follow the broader constitutional changes to the elected presidency that were passed last November, and spell out the nuts and bolts of how presidential elections will be carried out.

MPs will debate the latest amendments when Parliament sits in February, and are likely to pass the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill in time for this year's election, due by the end of August.

Under the proposed changes is one that will give candidates more time for to prepare their applications, which now require more information.

The deadline for applying for a certificate of eligibility will be extended to five days after the writ of election is issued, up from three days.

The Presidential Elections Committee will also have more time to vet these applications.

Next, Nomination Day will start a minimum of 10 days after the Prime Minister issues the writ of election, up from the current minimum of five days.

Community Committee

In another change, a 16-member Community Committee will be set up to make sure the practice of reserved elections runs smoothly. It will assess whether a candidate belongs to a particular racial group.

Under the constitutional changes passed in November, provisions were put in place to ensure that people of minority groups are elected as president from time to time.

A presidential election will be reserved for members of a particular racial group if there has not been a president from the group for the five most recent presidential terms.

But if no eligible candidate from that group comes forward, the election will be reserved for another eligible group. In the event that no other group is eligible, a fresh writ will be issued declaring an open election.

The Community Committee will consist of a chairman, and three sub-committees for the Chinese, Malay, and Indian and other minority groups. Each sub-committee will have five members.

All who want to run for president must declare to the Community Committee which of the three main communities they consider themselves a part of.

They will be issued a certificate for that community if the sub-committee is satisfied that they belong to that community.

The upcoming election will be reserved for Malay candidates, and all candidates must have a Malay community certificate to run.

Prospective candidates must apply to both the Community Committee and the Presidential Elections Committee.

Both committees must tell them about the outcome of their application no later than the day before Nomination Day.

In an open election, every candidate must also declare the racial group they belong to, so that it can be determined when reserved elections should happen.

A person who does not belong to the Chinese, Malay, and Indian and other minority groups will not be issued a community certificate, but can still stand in an open election if he gets a certificate of eligibility.

For example, a naturalised Singaporean of Japanese heritage might not be considered part of the Chinese, Malay, or Indian and other minority communities.

More time for overseas voters to register, automatic recounts

Other changes were proposed to make elections more efficient.

To make it more convenient for overseas Singaporeans to vote from abroad, the deadline to register as an overseas voter will be extended.

It will now be two calendar days after the issue of the writ of election, instead of on the day it is issued.

Additionally, recounts of votes will be automatically done if the number of votes between the top candidate and any other candidate is 2 per cent or less of the total valid votes.

This avoids unnecessary delays. Now, the 2 per cent margin allows candidates or their counting agent to ask for a recount.