If contested, the next Presidential Election, which has been reserved for Malay candidates, will be held in September rather than in August, which is when voting typically takes place. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Chan Chun Sing, announced this in Parliament during the second reading of the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill. The date revision does not require changes to the law. The Government is announcing changes early for transparency and so that prospective candidates can be aware of the changes.
In his speech, Mr Chan provided the reason for the shift in timing. He said voting for a new president has typically been held in the last week of August, to ensure the process falls within the term of the sitting President, which ends on Aug 31.
In 2011 for example, the Writ of Election was issued in the first week of August. Mr Chan said campaigning began shortly after National Day, and coincided with the month-long National Day celebrations. The revised timing would ensure the election is not held during the celebrations.
For the upcoming election, Mr Chan said the government will issue a Writ in the later part of August, before President Tony Tan’s term expires. The shift of the election from August to September will also “reset the clock” so that future elections will take place outside the National Day period.
Mr Chan said the Constitution allows for an acting President to assume office from the end of the incumbent President’s term until a new President assumes office.
“If a new President is not elected by the time President Tony Tan’s term expires on Aug 31… the Constitution provides for the Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers or, if he is unavailable, the Speaker, to be the acting President. The acting President cannot exercise the functions of the President indefinitely,” he said.
Mr Chan said current laws allow for changes to the timing of the polls to be made in time for this year’s Presidential election.
The shift in timing will also cater to the longer time period required to assess prospective candidates as part of legislative changes.
Under proposed changes to the Act, the deadline for prospective candidates to apply for a certificate of eligibility (COE) will be extended to five days after the Writ is issued. This is up from the current three days. This will give candidates more time to prepare their applications.
Another change being proposed is that nomination day be held at least 10 days after the day the Writ is issued, up from the current five days.