Commission to be set up to review Elected Presidency scheme

PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - A Constitutional Commission will be appointed to study changes to the Elected Presidency system, including reviewing the qualifying criteria of candidates, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

He also listed two other areas it will look into: how to ensure that minorities will have a chance to be elected to the office of president, and whether the views of the Council of Presidential Advisers, which assists and advises the president in exercising his powers, should be given greater weight.

The president, however, will remain an elected office, said Mr Lee. If the president is not elected, he will lack the mandate to wield his custodial powers, he told Parliament.

The Constitutional Commission will be chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and include distinguished jurists, academics and corporate executives.

It will look into each of the issues and take views from the public. It is expected to submit its recommendations by the third quarter of this year.

The Government will table the legislation which may be necessary within this year.

The Elected Presidency was introduced in 1991. Mr Lee's announcement comes after President Tony Tan Keng Yam said at the opening of Parliament on Jan 15 that the Government will study if further improvements to the political system are needed for its long-term benefit.

No details were given in the President's speech about the review, but some commentators have said that an obvious potential change is to the office of the Elected President, which was introduced 25 years ago.

Mr Lee stressed that the Government has a "very good and constructive working relationship" with Dr Tan, and that he was proposing this review not because of any dissatisfaction with the present working arrangements.

The adjustments may be necessary in the future to keep the presidency a robust and effective institution in the country's political system, he said.

Mr Lee added that the principle behind the qualifying criteria for presidential hopefuls remained valid but needed to be brought up to date.

mklee@sph.com.sg
dshea@sph.com.sg


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