Principal Government Officials
Chief of State: President Tony Tan Keng Yam
Head of Government: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
According to the constitution, as amended in 1965, Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of government. Political authority rests with the prime minister and the cabinet. The prime minister is the leader of the political party or coalition of parties having the majority of seats in Parliament. The president, who is chief of state, previously exercised only ceremonial duties. As a result of 1991 constitutional changes, the president is now supposed to be elected and exercises expanded powers over legislative appointments, government budgetary affairs, and internal security matters. The last presidential election was in August 2011.
The unicameral Parliament consists of 87 members elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and up to nine "nominated" members of Parliament (NMPs). In addition, a constitutional provision assures at least nine opposition members in Parliament, even if fewer than nine actually are elected; these are known as non-constituency members of Parliament (NCMPs). The president appoints nominated members of Parliament from among nominations by a special selection committee. Nominated members of Parliament enjoy the same privileges as members of Parliament but cannot vote on constitutional matters or expenditures of funds. The maximum term of Parliament is 5 years. NMPs serve for 2½-year terms. In the May 7, 2011 general election, the governing People's Action Party (PAP) won 81 of the 87 elective seats of the 12th Parliament. The opposition Workers' Party won the remaining six seats. There are three NCMPs in the 12th Parliament, two from the Workers' Party and one from the Singapore People’s Party. Voting has been compulsory since 1959.
Judicial power is vested in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The High Court exercises original criminal and civil jurisdiction in serious cases as well as appellate jurisdiction from subordinate courts. Its chief justice, senior judge, and 12 judges are appointed by the president. Appeals from the High Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. The right of appeal to the Privy Council in London was abolished effective April 1994.
The ruling political party in Singapore, reelected continuously since 1959, is the People's Action Party (PAP), headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The PAP has held the overwhelming majority of seats in Parliament since 1966, when the opposition Barisan Sosialis Party (Socialist Front), a left-wing group that split off from the PAP in 1961, resigned from Parliament, leaving the PAP as the sole representative party. In the general elections of 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980, the PAP won all of the seats in an expanding Parliament.
Then-Workers' Party Secretary General J.B. Jeyaretnam (who died in 2008) became the first opposition party member of Parliament in 15 years when he won a 1981 by-election. Opposition parties gained small numbers of seats in the general elections of 1984 (2 out of 79), 1988 (1 of 81), 1991 (4 of 81), 1997 (2 of 83), 2001 (2 of 84), 2006 (2 of 84), and 2011 (6 of 87). Meanwhile, the PAP's share of the popular vote in contested seats decreased from 75% in 2001 to 60.1% in 2011. In the 2011 election, opposition parties together contested 82 of the 87 seats, the largest number ever.
Singapore is nonaligned. It is a member of the United Nations and several of its specialized and related agencies, and also of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth. The country has participated in UN peacekeeping/observer missions in Kuwait, Angola, Namibia, Cambodia, and Timor-Leste. Singapore supports two Provincial Reconstruction Teams and provides refueling aircraft in support of international efforts in Afghanistan. It strongly supports regional and international anti-piracy efforts, and has undertaken a leadership role in anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden. Singapore supports the concept of Southeast Asian regionalism and plays an active role in ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
Sources:CIA World Factbook (December 2011)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( December 2011)