Singapore is a republic and a parliamentary democracy, with an elective, non-executive presidency. The constitution came into force on 2 June 1959. It provides for a head of state, a Prime Minister and a cabinet, and a unicameral Parliament. Elections, under universal adult suffrage and compulsory voting, must be held at least every five years.
The Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party in Parliament, who chooses a cabinet from among the members of Parliament.
The Parliament is made up of three types of members: 87 elected members (75 elected in teams of between three and six to represent 14 group representation constituencies and 12 in single-member constituencies); up to nine nominated members (NMPs); and up to three non-constituency members (NCMPs) from the opposition political parties. In early 2013 the 12th Parliament had 99 members, comprising 87 elected members, nine NMPs and three NCMPs.
The President is directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a six-year term. In practice the President no longer has powers of veto over legislation or appointments. The position is largely ceremonial. The first presidential election was held in 1993 but, in 1999 and in 2005, when the election committee, under the very restrictive eligibility rules, found only one candidate to be eligible, there was no election.
In an early general election in November 2001, the electorate gave the People’s Action Party (PAP) a decisive endorsement, when it took 82 of the 84 elective seats with 73.7 per cent of the votes. The Workers’ Party (WP) and the four-party Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) each won one seat.
In August 2004 Goh Chok Tong was succeeded by Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew and Deputy Prime Minister since 1990.
The PAP was again returned with 82 seats in the May 2006 general election, receiving 66.6 per cent of the votes. The WP and SDA each won one seat. Opposition parties contested 47 seats, and it was the first time more than half the seats were contested.
In the May 2011 general election the PAP won 81 seats and received 60.1 per cent of the votes. Opposition parties contested 82 seats and the WP took six. Two non-constituency seats were allocated to the WP and one to the Singapore People’s Party. Turnout was 93 per cent.
In a hard-fought presidential contest, in August 2011, former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tony Tan – with 35.2 per cent of the votes cast – defeated his three rivals; Tan Cheng Bock secured 34.9 per cent of the votes, Tan Jee Say 25.0 per cent and Tan Kin Lian 4.9 per cent. Dr Tan succeeded retiring President S. R. Nathan on 1 September 2011.
Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (1959–90) died on 23 March 2015.