Court challenge: Constitution says that PM must call for by-election when seat is vacated

Singapore Democrats

“Whenever the seat of a Member, not being a non-constituency Member, has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election…” (emphasis added)

This is Article 49(1) of the Singapore Constitution which forms the basis of Dr Wong Souk Yee’s argument in her application for a mandatory court order to compel the government to hold a by-election at the Marsiling-Yew Tee (MYT) GRC following the resignation of Ms Halimah Yacob as an MP there.

The matter will be heard in the High Court next Monday, 22 January 2018, at 2:30 pm. Dr Wong is represented by Peter Low and Choo LLC.

The applicant will also rely on Art 39A(2)(i) which unambiguously specifies a GRC “as a constituency where at least one of the candidates in every group shall be a person belonging to the Malay community”.

In the Written Submission, the applicant’s counsel also argues that the right of a voter to be represented by an MP of his/her choice is an implied right under the Constitution. Mr Zaqy Mohamed, Ms Halimah’s appointed replacement, was not a candidate in MYT in the 2015 elections and was therefore not elected by the voters in the GRC.

In addition, if the PAP has an unfettered discretion not to call a by-election, the situation may lead to under-representation of minority MPs if, for some reason, all of these MPs vacate their seats.

As it is, MYT voters’ ability to file parliamentary questions through their representative is diminished as each MP has only up to five questions in any given parliamentary session. They will be deprived of their voice in Parliament.

Also, the loss of an MP in a GRC will compromise the Town Council’s ability to fully discharge the duties owed by MPs to their voters in the GRC.

The Written Submissions has been filed and served on the Court and AG.

The hearing will take place behind closed-doors. However, Dr Wong’s counsel will apply at the hearing itself, for leave for the case to be heard in open court. The AGC has indicated that it is unlikely to object to the hearing being opened to the public.

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