Singapore : Constitution and politics


9 August 1965

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.

Head of government

The Hon Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister
The Hon Lee Hsien Loong is serving his third term in office as Prime Minister of Singapore following victory at the May 2011 general election. He first became Prime Minister in August 2004, and served a second term following victory in the May 2006 general election. Mr Lee was appointed Chairperson of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation in June 2011. He served as Minister for Finance from 2001 to 2007. From 1990 to 2004, Mr Lee was Deputy Prime Minister with responsibilities for economic and civil service matters. In 1998 he was appointed Chairperson of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and served in the post until 2004. Mr Lee was Minister for Trade and Industry from 1987 to 1992. From 1987 to 1990, he held the concurrent post of Second Minister for Defence. Mr Lee had risen through the ranks from his first appointment as Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Minister for Defence from 1984 to 1987. Mr Lee is the Secretary-General of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), a post held since December 2004. He served as First Assistant Secretary-General from 1992 to 2004, and Second Assistant Secretary-General from 1989 to 1992. Mr Lee was elected to the PAP’s Central Executive Committee in 1986 after becoming a Member of Parliament in 1984. Before his entry into politics, Mr Lee was a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). He joined the SAF in 1971 and held various staff and command posts. Mr Lee attended the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA, from 1978 to 1979. He was the first Director of the Joint Operations and Plans Directorate (1983–84), and Chief of Staff of the General Staff (1982–84). Mr Lee has a Master's degree in Public Administration from Harvard University, USA, and a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge, UK. Mr Lee was born on 10 February 1952.