“Article 49 of the Constitution states that when a seat falls vacant it shall be filled by election. In an SMC, a seat falls vacant when the MP vacates his office, for example when he is expelled from his political party, resigns his seat, or passes away. The timing of the by-election is at the discretion of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is not obliged to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe.”
– Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore (March 2012)
“[Article] 49 does not give the Prime Minister an unfettered discretion in the calling of an election to fill a casual vacancy of an elected MP. He must do so within a reasonable time and in that regard, the Prime Minister is entitled to take into account all relevant circumstances and only in clear cases can there be judicial intervention.”
“If a vacancy is left unfulfilled for an unnecessarily prolonged period that would raise a serious risk of disenfranchising the residents of that constituency. There is thus a need to balance the rights of the voters in a Parliamentary system of government and the discretion vested in the Prime Minister to decide when to call for a by-election to fill a vacancy.”
– Singapore’s Court of Appeal (5 July 2012)
For the first time in Singapore’s history of Constitutional challenges, a ruling made by the High Court in favour of the State has been overturned. It also puts on record that the Constitution does not grant the Prime Minister the full discretion on whether a by-election should be called. Thank you M Ravi, your legal team and Madam Vellama for being persistent in pursuing the challenge til the very end.
Personally, I was elated when I heard the news. It hasn’t been a smooth-sailing journey but they made it. This is certainly a great day to remember!
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