Singapore’s constitution took effect in August 1965 and is the supreme law. The country is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing constituencies. General elections must be conducted within five years of the first sitting of parliament; however, since the legislative assembly election in 1959 the government has always been formed by the People’s Action Party, either outright, or with an overwhelming majority. A President is elected by popular vote every six years and is largely ceremonial (although has veto powers over certain executive decisions). Together with the President, a Prime Minister-led cabinet forms the executive branch of the government.
The parliament is made up of elected MPs, non-constituency MPs (the best performing losers of the general election), and nominated MPs (appointed by the President). As a result of the latest 2015 general election, there are presently 89 elected MPs, up to nine non-constituency MPs and nine nominated MPs. The next general election must be held by April 2021. The parliament, together with the President, constitutes the legislative branch of government.
Bills are usually introduced by a minister on behalf of the government, but any MP may introduce a bill (known as a Private Member’s Bill). Bills go through three readings, with debate and voting on the bill occurring at the second reading. After the second reading, bills progress either to a Committee of the Whole Parliament or to a Select Committee for detailed examination, debate and amendments. Bills are passed after their third reading in parliament, and in most cases, are then scrutinised by the Presidential Council for Minority Rights. If approved by this council, the bill is then assented to by the President before being published in the Government Gazette to become a law. Other government policies such as strategies and blueprints are produced by various relevant government departments, committees and agencies. These policies either act as executive government policy, or provide implementation guidance for legislative acts.