The powers of the President

Do you know what the President can or cannot do?

10 Jun 2017

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With a Presidential Election on the horizon this September, there has been renewed interest in the powers that the President of Singapore has. Here’s a summary of the President’s discretionary powers:

Discretionary powers

Prior to 30 November 1991, the role of the President was largely a ceremonial one. However, the Constitution was amended to make the President’s office an elected office with discretionary powers relating to the safeguarding of national reserves, and the protection of the integrity of the Public Service.

The President has the power to veto or disagree with the Government’s proposals in the following areas:

• All fiscal matters touching on Singapore’s reserves

• All matters relating to key appointments in the public service and Fifth Schedule entities

• Restraining Orders under the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act

• Continued detention under the Internal Security Act

• Refusal of investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau

Consultation with advisers

The President must consult the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) on all fiscal matters touching on Singapore’s reserves and on the appointment and removal of key office holders in the public service and Fifth Schedule entities. On other areas involving the President’s discretionary powers, consultation of CPA is optional.

If the President vetoes any fiscal matter touching on Singapore’s reserves or the appointment/removal of any key office holder in the public service or Fifth Schedule entity, and the President’s decision is contrary to CPA’s advice, Parliament may overrule the President’s decision with a two-thirds majority vote.

Ceremonial and community roles

Besides the powers granted by the Constitution, the President also has ceremonial and community roles:

Ceremonial: As the Ceremonial Head of State, the President is the symbolic figure representing Singapore at ceremonies and internationally.

Community: The President may use the influence of his position to support charitable and social causes, such as sports, volunteerism, social entrepreneurship, culture and the arts. The President's Challenge championed by the President is one such example.  

Source: The Istana


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