What are the Roles and Powers of the Singapore President?
What are the role and powers of the Singapore President?
As stated on the Istana’s official website, the President plays 3 crucial roles:
- Ceremonial role: As the Head of State, the President officiates at state events, and represents Singapore on the global stage in cultivating and enhancing relationships with other countries.
- Community role: The President may lend weight to and promote social and charitable causes, as well as attend community events.
- Constitutional role: The President has powers provided for under the Constitution which he or she may exercise. These powers can be classified into 3 categories, namely, financial powers, powers concerning the appointment of key office holders, and miscellaneous powers.
The President may disapprove:
- Any budgets of any statutory board or government company, if he or she is of the view that the budget is likely to draw on reserves not accumulated by that statutory board or government company during the Government’s current term of office; and
- Any proposed transaction of a statutory board or government company, if he or she is of the view that the budget is likely to draw on reserves not accumulated by the statutory board or government company prior to the Government’s current term of office.
Also, the President may withhold assent to/not concur with:
- Any Bill passed by Parliament which changes, either directly or indirectly, the powers of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board to invest CPF monies;
- Any Bill passed by Parliament which allows the borrowing of money, giving of guarantee, or raising of loan by the Government, if the Bill, in his or her view, is likely to draw on reserves not accumulated by the Government during its current term of office;
- Any Supply Bill, Supplementary Supply Bill or Final Supply Bill for any financial year if, in his or her view, the estimates, supplementary estimates or the statement of excess are likely to draw on the reserves which were not accumulated by the Government during its current term of office;
- The making of advances from a Contingencies Fund that Parliament may create, which, in the President’s view, if replaced, is likely to draw on the reserves which were not accumulated by the Government during its current term of office;
- Any resolutions passed by Parliament authorising expenditure for part of any year before the passing of the Supply law for that year, but the aggregate sums so voted shall be included under the appropriate heads, in the Supply law for that year; and
- Any resolutions passed by Parliament authorising expenditure for the whole or part of the year, if it appears to Parliament desirable to do so due to the magnitude or indefinite character of any service, or to circumstances of unusual urgency.
Powers Concerning the Appointment of Key Office Holders
The President may refuse to appoint a person to any of the following offices, or to revoke such appointment, if he or she does not agree with the advice or recommendation of the authority on whose advice or recommendation he or she is to act:
- The Chief Justice, Judges of the Supreme Court, and the Judicial Commissioners, Senior Judges and International Judges of the Supreme Court;
- The Attorney-General;
- The Chairman and members of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights;
- The chairman and members of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony (the “PCRH”);
- The chairman and members of an advisory board constituted to ascertain whether a person should be detained for more than 3 months without trial;
- The Chairman and members of the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the members of a personnel board established to exercise powers and functions of the PSC;
- A member of the Legal Service Commission (other than the Chief Justice, the Attorney-General and and the Chairman of the PSC) and the members of a personnel board established to exercise the powers and functions of the Legal Service Commission;
- The Chief Valuer;
- The Auditor-General;
- The Accountant-General;
- The Chief of Defence Force;
- The Chiefs of the Air Force, Army and Navy;
- A member (other than an ex-officio member) of the Armed Forces Council;
- The Commissioner of Police; and
- The Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
Where the President has been authorised by written law to appoint the chairman, chief executive officer or member of a statutory board, the President may refuse to make any such appointment, or to revoke such appointment, if he or she does not agree with the advice or recommendation of the authority on whose advice or recommendation he or she is required to act.
If the President has not been given such authority by written law, his or her consent is required before an appointment to the office of chairman, chief executive officer, or member of any statutory board, or the revocation of such appointment, may be made.
Finally, the President’s consent is required before a person is appointed to or removed from the position of a chief executive officer or a director of a Government company.
Finally, the President is empowered to shall appoint a Member of Parliament (MP) as Prime Minister who in the President’s judgement is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the MPs. Also, the President shall appoint MPs to fill the positions of the other Ministers, based on the Prime Minister’s advice.
Other than the specific powers conferred upon the President, the President is also vested with a variety of other miscellaneous powers.
The President may:
- Discontinue a Parliamentary session: The President may dissolve Parliament upon the PM’s advice.
- Withhold his assent to any Bill: This excludes a Bill that aims to amend the Constitution if the Bill seeks to, directly or indirectly, circumvent or curtail the President’s discretionary powers provided for under the Constitution.
- Consent to the Director of the CPIB making inquiries or conducting investigations: Such inquiries or investigations are made in respect of any information received by the Director regarding the conduct of a person, or any allegation or complaint made against a person.
- Cancel, vary, confirm or refuse to confirm a restraining order made under the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act: This can be done where the advice of the Cabinet is contrary to the recommendation of the PCRH.
- Provide concurrence for preventive detention: This is required where the advisory board constituted to ascertain whether a person should be preventively detained recommends that the person be released, and the authority which advised or ordered that person’s detention does not accept such recommendation. Such person cannot be detained, or further detained, without the President’s concurrence.
- Appoint members of the Council of Presidential Advisers: The President may appoint 3 out of the 8 members that constitute the Council, and may nominate a member of the Council to be the Chairman.
- Refer questions regarding the effect of any constitutional provision: The President may refer to a tribunal, consisting of at least 3 Supreme Court Judges, any question regarding the effect of any provision in the Constitution which has arisen or appears to the President likely to arise.
- Issue a Proclamation of Emergency: The President may issue a Proclamation of Emergency where he or she is satisfied that the security or economic life of Singapore is threatened such that it constitutes a grave emergency.
- Grant an offender clemency: This power is exercised on Cabinet’s advice. The President may also remit a sentence, penalty or forfeiture imposed by law.
As seen, the President assumes several roles and has a range of powers that he or she may exercise based on his or her discretion.
To ensure that the functions and duties of the office of President are effectively carried out, several safeguards have been put in place to ensure that the President has the requisite experience and ability, and is simultaneously someone of integrity, good character and reputation.
Read our other article for more information on the qualifications required to run for President in Singapore.