President of Singapore

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President of the
Republic of Singapore
Standard of the President of Singapore
Presidential Standard
President of Singapore SR Nathan.jpg
Sellapan Ramanathan

since 1 September 1999
Residence Istana
Appointer Direct popular election
Term length Six years
Inaugural holder Yusof bin Ishak
Formation 9 August 1965
Website Official website of the President of Singapore

Template:Politics of Singapore The President of the Republic of Singapore is Singapore's head of state. In a Westminster parliamentary system, which Singapore possesses, the prime minister is the head of the government while the position of president is largely ceremonial. Before 1993, the President of Singapore was chosen by Parliament. Following amendments to the constitution enacted in 1991, the Presidency became a popularly-elected office. The first President elected by the people was Ong Teng Cheong, who served from 1 September 1993 to 31 August 1999. The current President of Singapore is Sellapan Ramanathan (S.R. Nathan), who first became head of state in 18 August 1999 and is presently serving his second term of office.

The President of the Republic of Singapore is a ceremonial head of state broadly analogous to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, but the 1991 constitutional amendments gave the President certain reserve powers over government expenditure of financial reserves and appointments to key public offices. The President's official residence is the Istana.


The office of President was created in 1965 after Singapore became a republic upon its secession from the Federation of Malaysia that year. It replaced the office of Yang di-Pertuan Negara, which had been created when Singapore attained self-government in 1959. The last Yang di-Pertuan Negara, Yusof bin Ishak, became the first President. He was replaced by Benjamin Sheares after his death, who served as President until his death in 1981, when he was succeeded by Chengara Veetil Devan Nair. Owing to personal problems, Nair stepped down in 1985 and was replaced by Wee Kim Wee, who served as President until 1993.

In January 1991, the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore[1] was amended to provide for the popular election of the President. The creation of the elected presidency was a major constitutional and political change in Singapore's history as, under the revision, the President is empowered to veto the use of government reserves and appointments to key civil service appointments. He or she can also examine the administration's enforcement of the Internal Security Act[2] and Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act,[3] and look into investigations of corruption.

The only popularly elected President was Ong Teng Cheong, a former cabinet minister. He served as President from 1 September 1993 to 31 August 1999. By virtue of transitional provisions in the Constitution of Singapore,[4] although Ong's predecessor Wee Kim Wee was not elected as President, because he held the office of President immediately prior to 30 November 1991 he exercised, performed and discharged all the functions, powers and duties of an elected president as if he had been elected to the office of President by the citizens of Singapore until Ong Teng Cheong took office as President.

In 1996, the government limited the powers of the President, when it amended the Constitution to provide that a presidential veto can be overridden with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The incumbent President is Sellapan Ramanathan, widely known as S.R. Nathan. He was not actually elected by the people in a vote, but became President by virtue of being the sole candidate deemed qualified by the Presidential Elections Committee. His first term of office was from 18 August 1999 to 31 August 2005. He was re-elected after a walkover on 17 August 2005. His current term of office will expire in 2011.


To be qualified to be elected President, a person must satisfy the following requirements:

  • He must be a citizen of Singapore.[5]
  • He must not be less than 45 years of age.[6]
  • His name must appear in a current register of electors.[7]
  • He must be resident in Singapore at the date of his nomination for election and must have been so resident for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than ten years prior to that date.[8]
  • He must not be subject to any of the following disqualifications:[9]
(a) being and having been found or declared to be of unsound mind;
(b) being an undischarged bankrupt;
(c) holding an office of profit;
(d) having been nominated for election to Parliament or the office of President or having acted as election agent to a person so nominated, failing to lodge any return of election expenses required by law within the time and in the manner so required;
(e) having been convicted of an offence by a court of law in Singapore or Malaysia and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to a fine of not less than S$2,000 and having not received a free pardon, provided that where the conviction is by a court of law in Malaysia, the person shall not be disqualified unless the offence is also one which, had it been committed in Singapore, would have been punishable by a court of law in Singapore;[10]
(f) having voluntarily acquired the citizenship of, or exercised rights of citizenship in, a foreign country, or having made a declaration of allegiance to a foreign country;[11]
(g) being disqualified under any law relating to offences in connection with elections to Parliament or the office of President by reason of having been convicted of such an offence or having in proceedings relating to such an election been proved guilty of an act constituting such an offence.


Once elected, the President shall —

  • not hold any other office created or recognized by the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore;
  • not actively engage in any commercial enterprise;
  • not be a member of any political party; and
  • if he is a member of Parliament, vacate his seat in Parliament.[19]

Term of officeEdit

The President holds office for a term of six years from the date on which he assumes office.

The person elected to the office of President assumes office on the day his predecessor ceases to hold office or, if the office is vacant, on the day following his election.

Upon his assumption of office, the President is required to take and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice or of another Justice of the Supreme Court the Oath of Office, which states:[20]

I, [name], having been elected President of the Republic of Singapore, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as such to the best of my ability without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, and without regard to any previous affiliation with any political party, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Republic, and that I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.
William Cohen and S. R. Nathan at the Istana, Singapore

President S.R. Nathan receiving former United States Secretary of Defense William Cohen at the Istana.

Maintenance: The Civil ListEdit

The Parliament of Singapore is required to provide a civil list for the maintenance of the President,[21] and it does so by way of the Civil List and Pension Act.[22] For the fiscal year 2009, the sum under Class I of the list, which includes the President's personal pay ($3,137,700, known by the British term the "privy purse"), an entertainment allowance ($69,000) and an allowance for an Acting President ($3,600), is $3,210,300.[23][24] This reduction of $822,800 from the 2008 fiscal year's approved expenditure is due to a decrease in the privy purse and a reclassification of expenses for ceremonies and celebrations hosted by the President from Class I to Class III expenses. The salaries for the President's personal staff (Class II) amount to $3,823,400, a reduction of $216,000 attributable to lower bonuses being paid in view of an expected economic slowdown. Class III expenses increased by $601,300 to $2,015,300. In addition to being used for ceremonies and celebrations, these expenses are used to cover the maintenance of the Istana, vehicles, utilities and other supplies. Class IV expenses for "special services" were increased from $89,000 to $598,400, to provide for the replacement of two state cars and the installation of a new document repository.[23]


Presidential Elections CommitteeEdit

The Presidential Elections Committee is established by Article 18 of the Constitution. Its function is to ensure that candidates for the office of President have the qualifications referred to in Article 19 of the Constitution.[25]

The Committee consists of:[26]

For the Singapore Presidential Election of 2005, the members of the Presidential Elections Committee were Dr. Andrew Chew Guan Khuan (Chairman), Lim Siong Guan and H.R. Hochstadt.[28]

Latest electionEdit

During the election of 2005, just like that of 1999, no balloting was held. As the Presidential Elections Committee determined that no other candidates satisfied the qualifications prescribed by the Constitution, S.R. Nathan was declared President unopposed.

Template:Singapore presidential election, 2005

List of Presidents of the Republic of SingaporeEdit

# Portrait President Start of term End of term
1 Yusof bin Ishak[29]
(12 August 1910 – 23 November 1970)
9 August 1965 23 November 1970
Following the death of President Yusof bin Ishak, the Speaker of Parliament, Yeoh Ghim Seng, was installed by Parliament as acting president until the appointment of Benjamin Sheares on 2 January 1971.
2 Benjamin Henry Sheares[29]
(12 August 1907 – 12 May 1981)
2 January 1971 12 May 1981
Once again, following the death of President Sheares, Speaker Yeoh Ghim Seng was installed by Parliament as acting president until the appointment of C.V. Devan Nair on 23 October 1981.
3 Devan Nair[29]
(5 August 1923 – 6 December 2005)
24 October 1981 28 March 1985
Following the resignation of President C.V. Devan Nair, Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin was installed by Parliament as acting president until 29 March when he was replaced by Speaker of the Parliament Yeoh Ghim Seng until the appointment of Wee Kim Wee on 3 September 1985.
4 Wee Kim Wee[29]
(4 November 1915 – 2 May 2005)
2 September 1985 1 September 1993
After the Constitution was amended in 1991, the term of President Wee was fixed to end on 1 September 1993. On that date, President Ong Teng Cheong, the first directly elected President of Singapore, assumed office.
5 Ong Teng Cheong[29]
(22 January 1936 – 8 February 2002)
2 September 1993 1 September 1999
President Ong completed his term of office on 1 September 1999 and was succeeded by S.R. Nathan who ran unopposed on Nomination Day in 1999.
6 President of Singapore SR Nathan S. R. Nathan (Sellapan Ramanathan)[30]
(born 3 July 1924)
1 September 1999 Present

Prior to the introduction of elections for the Presidency, between 1965 and 1993, the Presidents of Singapore were Malay, Eurasian, Indian and Chinese in turn. While there might have been some general expectation that a system of rotation among the ethnic groups in Singapore would have continued to apply, this possibility was put to rest by the introduction of an elected Presidency in 1991. There are no constitutional provisions specifying that such system should apply.

All the Presidents of Singapore to date have been men. Nonetheless, in a 2008 poll of 1,256 Singaporeans conducted by, a lifestyle research portal run by Singapore Telecommunications, 63% of women respondents and 58% of male respondents said they would vote for a female president. Those aged 50 and older were the most receptive to the idea.[31]


  1. ^ Template:Singapore Constitution.
  2. ^ Template:Singapore Statute.
  3. ^ Template:Singapore Statute.
  4. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 163(1).
  5. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(a).
  6. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(b).
  7. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(c) read with Art. 44(2)(c).
  8. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(c) read with Art. 44(2)(d).
  9. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(d) read with Art. 45.
  10. ^ The disqualification of a person under clauses (d) and (e) may be removed by the President and shall, if not so removed, cease at the end of five years beginning from the date on which the return mentioned in clause (d) was required to be lodged or, as the case may be, the date on which the person convicted as mentioned in clause (e) was released from custody or the date on which the fine mentioned in clause (1) (e) was imposed on such person: Singapore Constitution, Art. 45(2).
  11. ^ A person shall not be disqualified under this clause by reason only of anything done by him before he became a citizen of Singapore: Singapore Constitution, Art. 45(2). In clause (f), "foreign country" does not include any part of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland: Art. 45(3).
  12. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(e).
  13. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(f).
  14. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(g)(i).
  15. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(g)(ii) read with Art. 22A(3) and Pt. I of the Fifth Schedule.
  16. ^ Cap. 50, 2006 Rev. Ed. (S'pore).
  17. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(g)(iii).
  18. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 19(2)(g)(iv).
  19. ^ Singapore Constitution, Arts. 19(3)(a)–(d).
  20. ^ Singapore Constitution, Arts. 20(1)–20(3) and the First Schedule.
  21. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 22J(1).
  22. ^ Template:Singapore Statute.
  23. ^ a b "Funds approved for Office of the President", The Straits Times: C6, 23 January 2009 .
  24. ^ Civil List and Pension Act: Notice of Resolution of Parliament (S 139/2009, 22 January 2009).
  25. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 18(1).
  26. ^ Singapore Constitution, Arts. 18(2)(a)–(c).
  27. ^ Singapore Constitution, Art. 18(3).
  28. ^ "Presidential Elections Committee (No. 1342 of 2005)" (PDF), Government Gazette, 27 May 2007, .
  29. ^ a b c d e Former Presidents, Istana Singapore: Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore, 28 April 2006,, retrieved 2009-01-24 .
  30. ^ President S R Nathan, Istana Singapore: Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore, 4 May 2006,, retrieved 2009-01-24 .
  31. ^ Ansley Ng (6 August 2008), "Madam President? Yes, says 1 in 2", Today (reproduced on the National University of Singapore website), archived from the original on 24 January 2009,, retrieved 2009-01-24 .

Further readingEdit

  • Kevin Y[ew] L[ee] Tan; Lam Peng Er, eds. (1997), Managing Political Change in Singapore: The Elected Presidency, Singapore: Routledge, ISBN 0415156327 .

External linksEdit

Template:Southeast Asian leaders

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at President of Singapore. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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