PM has discretion to call elections

Above: Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

SINGAPORE - A high court judge has ruled that the decision on whether to call an election to fill the vacancy of an elected Member of Parliament lies with the Prime Minister, and that he has the discretion as to when to call it.

"There is no requirement in the Constitution to call elections to fill elected Member vacancies," Justice Philip Pillai said on Wednesday in his 53-page decision.

"There being no such requirement, there arises no prescribed time within which such elections must be called," he said.

His decision was in response to a Hougang resident's bid to get the courts to order the Prime Minister to hold a by-election in her ward within three months of the seat being vacated.

The bid by Madam Vellama Marie Muthu, who was represented by Mr M. Ravi, was made after former MP Yaw Shin Leong was expelled by the Workers' Party and vacated his seat in February.

The case continued even though a by-election was held in Hougang in May 26.

It was heard after the Attorney- General's Chambers (AGC) withdrew its appeal against the case being heard in open court.

AGC chief counsel David Chong had said the appeal was withdrawn as "there is nothing left to litigate" since the Hougang by-election had been called. But Mr Ravi argued that the matter is of public interest and should be "settled once and for all".

And the judge settled it on Wednesday.

Justice Pillai said on Wednesday: "Under the Constitution, to call or not to call an election to fill an elected Member vacancy is a decision to be made by the Prime Minister. Should the Prime Minister decide to call an election to fill an elected Member vacancy, he has a discretion as to when to call it."

Justice Pillai will bring up the issue of the costs of the applications at a later date.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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