Democracy is best epitomized through the act of voting and the electoral process. The electoral process is one of the linchpins of a democratic and republican framework because it is through the act of voting that government by consent is secured. Through the ballot, people express their will on the defining issues of the day and they are able to choose their leaders in accordance with the fundamental principle of representative democracy that the people should elect whom they please to govern them. (People v. Corral)

Singapore, known as Asia’s economic tiger and has a held a reputation for strict social standards and conservatism is run through democratic governance. Elections are held regularly in the selection of Singaporean government leaders, but this however never led to the change of leadership as only one political party, the People’s Action Party (PAP) prevailed over the years.

Although questioned and objected in its political practice of democracy by Western liberal standards, Singapore’s public leaders have consistently manifested firm governance and effective administration in the survival and prosperity of the nation. Led by the incumbent Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong under the People’s Action Party, the country has long held steadfast in their socio-political and economic progress. For them, it is not a matter of how wide the selection of candidates are to be elected, but how the mind of a few intellectuals promote utmost survival for the benefit of the people.


It was only at the end of the Second World War, when Singapore attained autonomy and self government. It was once held under undisputed control of British colonizers. The British colony that settled in Southeast Asia known as the Strait Settlements was dissolved as part of the British reorganization of its South-East Asian dependencies. With this occurrence, the British reinstated the Legislative Council which was originally established in 1867, and opened limited number seats for elected legislators still with the presence of colony-appointed officials in control. Although only a few privileged citizens were allowed to vote, this was the start of Singapore’s exposure to elections.

In the year 1951, the second Legislative Council election took place and during this time, the number of seats increased. In 1953, the Rendel Constitution was implemented to settle Singapore for independent governance with little control from the colonizers. This paved the way for Singapore’s full autonomy in the selection for government leaders. The Legislative Council was now replaced with the Legislative Assembly and opened up more elected seats and voting rights from the citizens. [1] When Singapore attained self government in 1959, a general election was held to choose 51 representatives to the first fully elected Legislative Assembly. At this stage, compulsory voting was already introduced. Among the 10 parties and 39 independent candidates contesting, The People’s Action Party (PAP) won most of the electoral seats and came to power with Lee Kuan Yew hailed as Singapore’s first Prime Minister. After gaining independence and being granted full self-government by the British, one party prevailed and overpowered amongst the rest. The People’s Action Party or PAP won all 58 out of the 65 seats against the Worker’s Party during the 1968 General Election. [2]

With its fully established government and independence in August of 1965, Singapore’s Legislative Assembly is renamed as the Parliament of Singapore, a parliament with a unicameral system representing different constituencies.


The electoral process of Singapore is based upon the rulings of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore and the Singapore Parliamentary Elections Act. The constitution entails the responsibilities of the parliament, the legislative process and the exercise of legislative powers. The Parliamentary Elections Act provides the introduction and conduct of elections for the members of the Parliament which also features the production of the registers of electors [3] .

Elections are administered through the Elections Department under the Prime Minister’s office and headed by a civil servant. [4]

Register of Electors

The registration of voters is assigned in a particular constituency in where he/ she resides. Qualified electors are registered only once for each electoral division. Aside from the assigned constituency, the register also provides the electors particulars such as the elector’s name, address and sex.

In accordance with the Parliamentary Elections Act, the Register of Electors shall serve as basic evidence for the citizen’s right to vote. Anyone not registered or qualified to have his or her name entered in to the register shall not be allowed to vote.

The register of electors is displayed before the public prior to the elections to inspect the registers. Upon inspection, any person who considers that he is entitled to have his name entered in a register of electors and whose name has been omitted from the register (referred to in this section as the claimant) may apply to the Registration Officer to have his name entered therein. [5] Likewise, any person whose name appears in the register may object to the inclusion of his name may object to the insertion in the register of the name of any claimant. [6] Once all claims and objections have been addressed and ruled, the register shall be certified by the Returning Officer .

The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee is appointed by the Prime Minister to evaluate the numbers and boundaries of the electoral constituencies prior to elections. The committee sends a report to the cabinet and if the report is accepted by the government, it is then published in the Gazette.

Eligibility of voters

Voting qualifications in Singapore include citizenship, age, residency and a record at the register of electors. As mandated under Parliamentary Election Act, Part I, Section 5:

Qualification of electors

Section 5. —(1) Subject to sections 6 and 7, any person who on the prescribed date in any year —

(a) is a citizen of Singapore;

(b) is ordinarily resident in Singapore; and

(c) is not less than 21 years of age,

shall be entitled to have his name entered or retained in a register of electors in that year.

Voting is compulsory for all the Singaporeans. According to the Parliamentary Elections Act:

(1) Every elector shall record his vote at each election in the electoral division for which he is registered.

(2) The Returning Officer shall, at the close of each election, prepare a list of the numbers, names and descriptions as stated in the register of electors of such electors who have failed to vote at the election and certify the list under his hand.

(3) Notwithstanding section 32 (10) and (12), it shall be lawful for the Returning Officer to break the seals of packets containing the marked copies of the registers of electors and to inspect and retain those copies for the purpose of preparing the list referred to in subsection (2) and of any inquiries connected therewith.

(4) The list prepared by the Returning Officer under subsection (2) shall be forwarded by the Returning Officer to the Registration Officer.

(5) The Registration Officer shall on receipt of such list cause the names of all persons appearing in the list to be expunged from the register of electors.

(6) The Registration Officer shall give notice in the Gazette that such list has been received by him from the Returning Officer and that the list or copies thereof are open for inspection at all reasonable hours of the day at the office of the Registration Officer and at such other place or places in or near each electoral division and at such overseas registration centres as may be specified in the notice.

(7) Every person whose name appears on the list of which notice has been given by the Registration Officer under subsection (6) may make a written application for the restoration of his name to the register of electors.

(8) If any applicant under subsection (7) satisfies the Registration Officer that he has a good and sufficient reason for not having recorded his vote, his name shall be restored to the register without penalty, but where the applicant does not so satisfy the Registration Officer, his name shall be restored to the register on payment to the Registration Officer of a sum of $50. [7]

Thus anyone who does not vote without a valid excuse shall be removed from the Register of Electors and shall pay a small fine to have it restored.

The act of voting in Singapore is not only limited within the country but it is also exercised abroad. Through the Overseas Voting Bill, Singaporeans living abroad are given an opportunity to vote despite being out of the country.

Overseas voters must meet these qualifications:

citizen of Singapore i.e holder of a Pink-coloured Identity Card

At least 21 years old

Ordinarily a resident or deemed to be ordinarily resident in Singapore at an address that is in that constituency [8]

Electoral Process

The issuance of writ signals the start of elections. In general elections, the president issues the writ addressed to the Returning officer. This official instrument shall specify the nomination date which must be published between 5 days and 1month. The Returning Officer must give a 4-day notice before nomination day through its publication in the Gazette.

A person may be nominated for the Parliament or for Presidency if he or she meets the qualifications set by the Constitution. Nomination takes place by means of a nomination paper. The nomination paper should be delivered to the Returning Officer specifying the nominee’s name, identity card number, occupation, signed by a proposer and seconder and 4 or more persons as assentors. It should also contain a statement of consent for the nomination and a statutory declaration that the person is qualified to be elected. [9]

For electoral candidates, a refundable deposit is required to be given to the returning official. Written under Section 28, Part III of the Parliamentary Elections Act:

Section 28. —(1) A candidate, or some person on his behalf, shall deposit or cause to be deposited with the Returning Officer or with some person authorised by the Returning Officer in that behalf, between the date of the issue of the writ referred to in section 24 and 12 noon of the day of nomination, a sum equal to 8% of the total allowances payable to a Member of Parliament in the preceding calendar year, rounded to the nearest $500.

Deposit is forfeited if the candidate losses with less than on eighth of the votes.

The returning officer must publish a notice to the public about the constituencies in which elections will be contested and other pertinent details about the elections after the period of nomination. In the event that a nominated candidate or party runs without any opposition, a “walkover” is announced. [10]

For contested elections, the Returning Officer shall send a notice regarding the poll date, a list of the candidate’s names and a list of the polling stations. After notice has been given, campaigning shall officially begin.

Campaign period is held at least nine days which can start right after the nomination of candidates. There are a number of restrictions in campaigning activities and electoral candidates are only allowed to display posters, distribute flyers, advertise on the internet, conduct house visits and organize election meetings. Campaign expenses are also set into strict limits. The allowable campaign expenditure is only up to S$2.50 per voter and expenses amounting to more than S$10 should be accompanied by a receipt. [11] All election expenses should be returned to the Elections Department within 31 days after the publication of election result.

Casting of votes shall take place during the polling day. All names recorded at the Register of Electors, including overseas voters, shall vote at their respective polling stations. Upon the completion of votes, ballot boxes are sealed and delivered to the counting precincts.

After all the votes have been tallied and counted, the Returning Officer shall compile all the votes in principal counting area. The impact of overseas votes is taken into consideration at this point. If the overseas votes have an impact in the outcome of the election, the Returning Officer shall announce the number of votes cast in Singapore in favor of the Candidate or group of candidates and declare that the candidate or group of candidates won only after overseas votes are counted. [12] Declaration of the elected candidates shall then be published in the Gazette.


The president of Singapore functions as the Head of State. With the amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore in 1991, the seat of presidency is now determined through the votes of the citizens and no longer from the appointment of the parliament. Under the revision, the president also takes on added powers in office which include an overseeing role in the Internal Security Act, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, laws relating to control of religious organizations and the power to veto the use of national reserves in the appointment of senior civil service. [13]

The president has a term of 6 years. To run as a presidential candidate, one must meet the qualifications specified in Article 19, Chapter I, Part V of the Constitution:

Article 19. —(1) No person shall be elected as President unless he is qualified for election in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

(2) A person shall be qualified to be elected as President if he —

(a) is a citizen of Singapore;

(b) is not less than 45 years of age;

(c) possesses the qualifications specified in Article 44 (2) (c) and (d);

(d) is not subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 45;

(e) satisfies the Presidential Elections Committee that he is a person of integrity, good character and reputation;

(f) is not a member of any political party on the date of his nomination for election; and

(g) has for a period of not less than 3 years held office —

(i) as Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or Permanent Secretary;

(ii) as chairman or chief executive officer of a statutory board to which Article 22A applies;

(iii) as chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency; or

(iv) in any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organisation or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President

In Presidential elections, the writ is issued by the Prime Minister. The conduct of election takes place within 6 months after the office of the President becomes vacant prior to the expiration of the term of office of the incumbent or not more than 3 months before the date of expiration of the term of office of the incumbent. [14]

Candidates running for presidency are screened through the Presidential Elections Committee headed by the Chairman of Public Service Commission. Any person who desires for the seat of presidency shall submit their application to the committee not later than 3 days of the writ of election. [15]


The Prime Minister serves as the head of the government and most of the executive powers are vested on him and the cabinet.

Elections are being held to form the parliament in a first-past the-post system, which means whoever gets the majority of the vote wins. The leader of the political party with the most votes is selected by the president as the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister chooses from the Members of the Parliament to form the cabinet. This is clearly stipulated in the Constitution:

(Article 25, Part V, Chapter 2 – The Executive)

Appointment of Prime Minister and Ministers

Article 25. —(1) The President shall appoint as Prime Minister a Member of Parliament who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament, and shall, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint other Ministers from among the Members of Parliament:

The Parliament is single house and has three types of Members of Parliament namely:

Elected Members of Parliament

Non – Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP).

Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP).

Elected MPs are elected through a one man-one vote system based on a simple majority count. They could either be returned from Single Member Constituencies and Group Representation Constituencies. The Group Representation Constituencies requires at least one belonging from the Malay, Indian or other minority communities to ensure that Minority Groups are represented in Parliament. Non – Constituency MPs are selected from members of a political party or any party not forming the government. Members under this group can not vote on bills concerning monetary or constitutional affairs. Nominated MPs – members nominated by a Special Select Committee of Parliament for appointment by the President. This group too can not vote on monetary or constitutional matters. [16]

To be qualified as a member of the parliament, the Consitution states:

Article 44. —(1) Members of Parliament shall be persons qualified for election or for appointment in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution and elected in the manner provided by or under any law for the time being in force in Singapore or appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Schedule.

(2) A person shall be qualified to be elected or appointed as a Member of Parliament if —

(a) he is a citizen of Singapore;

(b) he is of the age of 21 years or above on the day of nomination;

(c) his name appears in a current register of electors;

(d) he is resident in Singapore at the date of his nomination for election and has been so resident for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than 10 years prior to that date;

(e) he is able, with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of Parliament, to speak and, unless incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause, to read and write at least one of the following languages, that is to say, English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil;

The speaker of the parliament is elected during the first session of the new members and followed by the member’s oath-taking.

Singapore parliament currently has 84 seats, 82 of which is occupied by the People’s Action Party.

The Election in Singapore is considered as the only feature of democracy that is exercised. As soon as the leaders are elected in their seats, everything else is controlled under their authority.



In a democratic system of government, the people’s voice is sovereign. Corollarily, choosing through the ballots the men and women who are to govern the country is perhaps the highest exercise of democracy. It is thus the interest of the state to insure honest, credible and peaceful elections, where the sanctity of the votes and the secrecy of the ballots are safeguarded, where the will of the electorate is not frustrated or undermined. For when the popular will itself is subverted by election irregularities, then the insidious seeds of doubt are sown and the ideal of a peaceful and smooth transition of power is placed in jeopardy. To automate, thus breaking away from a manual system of election has been viewed as a significant step towards clean and credible elections, unfettered by the travails of the long wait and cheating that have marked many of our electoral exercises. [17]

The Advent of Automation

On December 22, 1997, Congress enacted Republic Act No. (RA) 8436 authorizing the adoption of an automated election system (AES) in the May 11, 1998 national and local elections and onwards. The 1998, 2001, and 2004 national and local polls, however, came and went but purely manual elections were still the order of the day. On January 23, 2007, the amendatory RA 9369 was passed authorizing anew the Comelec to use an AES. Of particular relevance are Sections 6 and 10 of RA 9369––originally Secs. 5 and 8, respectively of RA 8436, as amended––each defining Comelec’s specific mandates insofar as automated elections are concerned. The AES was not utilized in the May 10, 2000 elections, as funds were not appropriated for that purpose by Congress and due to time constraints.

RA 9369 calls for the creation of the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC). CAC is to recommend, among other functions, the most appropriate, applicable and cost-effective technology to be applied to the AES. To be created by Comelec too is the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) which is tasked to certify, through an established international certification committee, not later than three months before the elections, by categorically stating that the AES, inclusive of its hardware and software components, is operating properly and accurately based on defined and documented standards.

In August 2008, Comelec managed to automate the regional polls in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao(ARMM), using direct recording electronics (DRE) technology in the province of Maguindanao; and the optical mark reader/recording (OMR) system, particularly the Central Count Optical Scan (CCOS), in the rest of ARMM. What scores hailed as successful automated ARMM 2008 elections paved the way for Comelec, with some prodding from senators, to prepare for a nationwide computerized run for the 2010 national/local polls, with the many lessons learned from the ARMM experience influencing, according to the NCC, the technology selection for the 2010 automated elections. [18]

Computerized voting is a superior form of casting ballots. It allows for fairer and faster voting.  The possibility of system hacking is very slim. The PCOS machines are online only when they transmit the results, which would only take around one to two minutes. In order to hack the system during this tiny span of vulnerability, a super computer would be required. Noteworthy also is the fact that the memory card to be used during the elections is encrypted and read-only––meaning no illicit program can be executed or introduced into the memory card.

Therefore, even though the AES has its flaws, Comelec and Smartmatic have seen to it that the system is well-protected with sufficient security measures in order to ensure honest elections.

And as indicated earlier, the joint venture provider has formulated and put in place a continuity and back-up plans that would address the understandable apprehension of a failure of elections in case the machines falter during the actual election. This over-all fall-back strategy includes the provisions for 2,000 spare PCOS machines on top of the 80,000 units assigned to an equal number precincts throughout the country. The continuity and back-up plans seek to address the following eventualities: (1) The PCOS fails to scan ballots; (2) The PCOS scans the ballots, but fails to print election returns (ERs); and/or (3) The PCOS prints but fails to transmit the ERs. In the event item #1 occurs, a spare PCOS, if available, will be brought in or, if not available, the PCOS of another precinct (PCOS 2 for clarity), after observing certain defined requirements, shall be used. Should all the PCOS machines in the entire municipality/city fail, manual counting of the paper ballots and the manual accomplishment of ERs shall be resorted to in accordance with Comelec promulgated rules on appreciation of automated ballots. In the event item #2 occurs where the PCOS machines fail to print ERs, the use of spare PCOS and the transfer of PCOS-2 shall be effected. Manual counting of ERs shall be resorted to also if all PCOS fails in the entire municipality. And should eventuality #3 transpire, the following back-up options, among others, may be availed of: bringing PCOS-1 to the nearest precinct or polling center which has a functioning transmission facility; inserting transmission cable of functioning transmission line to PCOS-1 and transmitting stored data from PCOS-1 using functioning transmission facility. [19]

A Critical Review

The recent automated election was my first opportunity to vote and I took pride in the thought that I was participating with the country’s first automated elections. At the onset of the Election Day itself, the infernally long wait was most frustrating. Personally, I was left standing in line for more than three hours for my turn to vote just as chaos and confusion surrounds me. This mayhem can seemingly be attributed to the fact that no one inside the polling station was enforcing the COMELEC’s mandate of giving each voter a maximum of 8 minutes to make his/her selection and the actual casting of their votes. Each individual in the voting precinct, I belonged to, took at least 30 minutes to vote. The precinct was also crowded with people who were not supposed to be inside due to the failure of some BEI’s to implement the rules issued by COMELEC pursuant to the relevant provision on Section 27(b) and (d) of COMELEC Resolution 8786 which provides:

Section 27. Rules to be observed during the voting. – During the voting, the BEI shall see to it that:

b) No watcher shall enter the place reserved for the voters and the BEI, nor mingle and talk with the voters;

d) There shall be no crowding of voters and disorderly behavior inside the polling place; and

While this tumult was happening, a squadron of poll watchers merely watched and was even casually greeting voters they knew and conversed with them inside the classroom. Further, people from certain camps were trying to influence people’s votes by still campaigning for the candidates they represent even while inside the polling station. And still, a cluster of voters crowded at the door of each classroom were constantly badgering the people inside begging to know why it is taking them so long to cast their votes. All these added to the disorder.

As a recommendation for future automated elections, the fear of automation failure should not overwhelm us. For we are already geared with the safeguards mentioned above and the lessons learned from first automated election. What we need is for COMELEC’s mandates to be implemented more strictly. I am of the opinion that we may never have a perfect election and election laws but what we have is already adequate. This much is true if only we could put in force and follow the mandate of the election law and the implementing rules issued by COMELEC. This should be in accord to truly give the electorate the chance to express their will on the defining issues of the day and that they be able to choose their leaders pursuant to the fundamental principle of representative democracy, that the people should elect whom they please to govern them. For the failure to impose the constitutional grant the powers of Comelec, among others, to enforce and administer all laws relative to the conduct of election would render futile the very essence for which it was given. Thus, as it had been said in de jesus vs people ,The evident constitutional intendment in bestowing this power to Comelec is to insure the free, orderly, and honest conduct of election, failure of which would result in the frustration of the true will of the people and make a mere idle ceremony of the sacred right and duty of every citizen to vote [20]

The introduction of the automated election, opened issues which revolve around the voting public was whether or not there is enough amount of protection guaranteed by the automated elections’ software source code that would prevent hackers from hacking the program for counting and thus prevent the tampering on the number of votes, and whether there was non-compliance of bidding requirement as to who shall be the provider of the technology to be used. We are just too preoccupied with the automated election system that we failed to give weight to the fact that although we have a good system, there is insufficient implementation. All the qualms about the system would be of no use since the implementation in itself roots the electorate’s disenfranchisement and thus hamper the faithful determination of the true will of the voting public.

Over all, even with disarray during the Election Day itself, the automated election was successful. The long lines have always been the case even before the advent of automated election. Let us just consider the entire negative occurrence as necessary consequences brought by the shift from manual to automated election. Time and experience are necessary to evolve patterns that will serve the ends. But gearing towards the positive, flying voters, fraud in canvassing, fraud in tallying of votes, and vote-padding and shaving are already eliminated and in addition election results could already be released as early as within forty eight hours. As what Chief Justice Renato Puno said in his concurring opinion in ROQUE, JR. vs.COMELEC, We have been bedeviled in the past by elections that are not free, fair and honest. These elections have made a mockery of our democracy for they frustrated the sovereign right of the people to choose who ought to rule them. These elections have also resulted in instability of governments whose legitimacy has been placed in doubt. All these elections were conducted manually. For the first time, we shall be conducting our May 2010 elections through full automation. To be sure, full automation will not completely cleanse the dirt in our electoral system. But it is a big forward step which can lead us to the gateway of real democracy where the vote of the people is sacred and supreme. [21]

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