Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When will the Elected President election be held?

With 56 days to until the deadline for the presidential election, thoughts should have begun to shift to when the elections will be held since the question of whether there will be an election has somewhat been answered with the race of the three Tans.

This, of course, assumes that none of them get disqualified by the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC), whose task is to “ensure that candidates for the office of President have the qualifications referred to in Article 19 of the Constitution.”

I had earlier suggested the possibility of a July election due to a confluence of factors (see Writ of Presidential Election to be issued soon?). However, I would not entirely rule out an August election based on what transpired during the 2005 presidential election.

Dates for July Election
Supposing a July election is called, it will probably be held on Saturday, 30 July, with Nomination Day falling on 20 July. The issuance of the Notice of Contested Election will probably be on the same day as Nomination Day, giving candidates nine clear days for campaigning prior to the Cooling-Off Day on the day before Polling Day.

According to the Presidential Elections Act, the date of the poll must not be earlier than the 10th day, and not later than the 56th day after the publication of the Notice of Contested Election.

Based on the above, the latest dates for the issuance of the Writ of Election and Notice of Election would be 15 July and 16 July, respectively. This would give the prospective presidential candidates sufficient time to apply for their Certificate of Eligibility from the PEC and have the COE issued to them not later than one day before Nomination Day.

It would be a tight schedule for the PEC but given the amount of time the prospective candidates have been in the media spotlight, the PEC should be able to complete its work quickly in terms of ascertaining their credentials and qualifications.

Of course, there is the possibility of issuing the writ earlier to give the PEC more time to deliberate over the prospective candidates’ eligibility. This would suggest that the writ could be issued as soon as this Friday, 8 July.

Dates for August Election
If the government decides that the presidential election is to be held in August, it will most probably be held on Saturday, 27 August, similar to the date of the 2005 presidential election. Nomination Day will fall on 17 August and the Notice of Contested Election will be issued on the same day.

If this is the chosen presidential election timeline, the latest date for the issuance of the Writ of Election and Notice of Election would be on 12 August and 13 August, respectively. During the 2005 presidential election, the writ was issued on 5 August.

July Dates
August Dates
Writ of Election
15 July
12 August
Notice of Election
16 July
13 August
Nomination Day
20 July
17 August
Notice of Contested Election
20 July
17 August
Polling Day
30 July
27 August

July or August?
A July election would enable the government to ‘cash in’ on the feel good factor of civil servants having just received their mid-year bonuses. Let us not forget that the civil service is the biggest employer in Singapore.

A July polling date would also avoid the traditional Chinese Hungry Ghost Month which starts on 31 July and Muslim fasting month which starts on 1 August.

However, both the Hungry Ghost Month and the Muslim fasting month may offer opportunities for the candidates to attend events associated with both observances to build their rapport with the ground, especially if the goal was to build up their credentials and be seen as the people’s president.

And going by the dates for the 2005 presidential election, it would appear that the government had no hesitation about calling the election during the Hungry Ghost Month, in fact the issuance of the Writ of Election fell on the same day as the start of the Hungry Ghost Month. The only difference then was that no election needed to be held as President S R Nathan secured his second term of office by a walkover.

Considerations over a July or August polling date could also be tied in to the coming National Day celebrations in August. The celebrations could be used as an occasion for the nation to say its final farewell to President S R Nathan since his term of office expires on 31 August.

However, it could be argued that it is still possible to have the elections in July and have a president-in-waiting until the expiry of President Nathan’s term. It may be odd to have two presidents for a period of about one month but the new president will not assume his responsibilities until he is sworn in anyway.

Well, your guess is as good as mine, and I guess only the Elections Department really knows.

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