On 21 March 2016, the Workers’ Party (WP) set out its position on the office of the Elected President (EP) and the current review. In its submission to the Constitutional Commission Secretariat, WP reiterated the call to abolish the office of the EP, which has been the party’s position on the EP since the 1980s.
WP’s objections over the office of the EP are as follows:
1) The EP undermines Parliamentary Democracy
- The government’s power to govern is derived from the popular mandate it receives at parliamentary elections. An EP, with powers provided under Part V, Chapter 1 of the Constitution, fetters the government in matters which may be critical to the government’s effectiveness.
2) The EP could potentially Cripple a non-PAP Government in its first term
- The persons who qualify to be EP comprise an elite group, many of whom are senior officials appointed under the PAP government. Should the day come when a non-PAP government is elected and needs to replace some of the key appointment holders under Article 22 of the Constitution, the EP could block such appointments and cripple the new administration.
3) The EP can be an Unnecessary Alternative Power Centre, Causing Gridlock
- The significant veto powers given to the EP could potentially lead to the EP becoming an alternative power centre. The Prime Minister may end up becoming a lame duck, needing to cower to the EP to obtain “co-operation” and prevent political impasses of even crises.
4) Parliament is a Sufficient Safeguard on Reserves
- WP agrees that the large reserves built up in the past should be safeguarded. However, it believes that the EP is not the right mechanism for this. Instead, WP is open to the idea of enacting additional Parliamentary mechanisms to safeguard the reserves.
WP is of the opinion that the concerns recently expressed by the Prime Minister about the office of the EP is the making of the government itself. The party’s opinion on these concerns are as follows:
- The government’s desire to review the eligibility criteria for candidature suggests that it recognizes the potential for political gridlock that might occur due to the election of an “uncooperative” EP.
- The government’s suggestion of expanding the powers of the Council of Presidential Advisors (CPA), which is made up of eight appointed members with no mandate from Singaporeans, may add another layer of gridlock, between the EP and the CPA.
- The government’s concerns over the lack of a President from a minority community would be nullified if Singapore were to revert to its former system of appointed, ceremonial Presidents.
WP is therefore of the view that the office of the EP should not be refined, and should be abolished.
The full text of the submission can be downloaded here: WP Submission to CCS on EP (21 March 2016)