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Does a minister in Singapore have to be an *elected* member of parliament?

The 2011 general election is drawing closer and the debates are heating up. One hotly contested district this time is The Aljunied GRC where the opposition Workers Party wants to unseat the incumbent PAP. GRC stands for " Group Representation Constituency" where a team of politicians gets elected together. In Aljunied the winning party will gain 5 seats, which is more than 5% of the total elected seats. The PAP team in Aljunied is headed by Mr George Yeo, who happens to be Singapore's current foreign minister.
In articles, on Facebook and else where assertions are made, that he has to leave government if he doesn't get elected in Aljunied. Having grown up in a continental European democracy I was quite puzzled. In Germany the cabinet is appointed by the president on suggestion of the chancellor (our equivalent to the prime minister) and the cabinet members might or might not be members of parliament (The chancellor is elected by the parliament, not appointed by the president). After all the ministers head the Executive and not the Legislative. So I though: " If in doubt check the source". The Singapore Constitution states in Part V Chapter 2 Paragraph 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. Provided that, if an appointment is made while Parliament is dissolved, a person who was a Member of the last Parliament may be appointed but shall not continue to hold office after the first sitting of the next Parliament unless he is a Member thereof." (emphasis mine).
So on first view the concerns " if Mr. Yeo loses he is out" seem valid. My late father, who was a lawyer, taught me always to read surrounding paragraphs or the whole law to make sure to get the full picture. In Part VI Paragraph 39 1c we can read: " such other Members not exceeding 9 in number, who shall be known as nominated Members, as may be appointed by the President in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Schedule". So while it wouldn't be an ideal proceeding and certainly not in the spirit of the Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) idea, it looks like a NMP can be part of the cabinet (The speaker or deputy speaker of the parliament also can be appointed from non-elected members, but is explicitly banned in Paragraph 39(4) from becoming a cabinet member). Of course I'm not an expert in Anglo-Saxon inspired law, so I might stand corrected (and learn something new in the process). Also a constitution can be changed. Narrowing the selection base for ministers to members of the parliament excludes a lot of talent.
Now what would be really embarrassing (for the PAP): If Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's PAP team loses in Ang Mo Kio. In 2006 the team got 66.14% of the votes, presuming the number of voters hasn't changed, 23,579 people would need to change their mind in one direction. Is that a lot or a little?
We live in interesting times

Posted by on 04 May 2011 | Comments (1) | categories: Singapore


  1. posted by singapore lawyer on Thursday 26 April 2012 AD:
    Hmmm... interesting. Thanks for bringing this up.