Guide to general election: FAQs

As Singapore prepares to head to the polls on Sept 11, here are 30 key questions about the general election answered.


Electoral Boundaries

1. Who decides on the electoral boundaries?

The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee released its report on July 24. Read the report here.

The committee, which draws up constituency boundaries before a general election, is appointed by the Prime Minister and is usually made up of five civil servants.

As in previous years, it is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, who heads the office that offers administrative support to the Cabinet. The current Cabinet Secretary is Mr Tan Kee Yong. He reports to the Prime Minister.

Explore the changes to the electoral boundaries with our interactive.

2. How does the committee decide?

The committee considers population shifts and housing developments since the last general election.

For the latest round of changes, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked the committee to have smaller group representation constituencies (GRCs), so as to reduce the average number of MPs per GRC to less than five. PM Lee also asked the committee to have at least 12 single-member constituencies (SMCs).

3. How many seats are up for contest?

With the redrawn electoral boundaries, there will be 13 SMCs and 16 GRCs, up from 12 and 15 respectively in the last election in 2011.

There will be 89 elected Members of Parliament (MPs) in the 13th Parliament of Singapore, two more than in the current House.

Explore our interactive map to find out who is standing where.

Electoral Process

1. Now that the electoral boundaries have been drawn, what's next?

For an overview of the key events leading up to the election, click here.

  • Writ of election | Aug 25

    Parliament was dissolved and the writ of election issued on Aug 25, 2015. The writ is issued by the President of Singapore specifying the date of Nomination Day, and the places where nomination is to take place.

    In 2001, the writ was issued one day after the boundaries report was issued, and in 2011, one month and 26 days.

  • Nomination Day | Sept 1

    Nomination Day is now on Sep 1, 2015. Nomination Day is the start of the campaign period. Candidates are required to present their nomination papers at the nomination centres.

  • Campaigning

    Under the law, Polling Day should not be earlier than the 10th day, nor later than the 56th day after Nomination Day. There will be nine days of campaigning this year.

  • Cooling-Off Day | Sept 10

    There is then a Cooling-Off Day, which falls on the eve of Polling Day when voters cast their ballots.

    On Cooling-Off Day, election campaigning is prohibited. Implemented for the first time in 2011, this is to give voters time to reflect rationally on issues raised during the election before voting.

    Certain campaign activities are allowed on Cooling-Off Day, including party political broadcasts on television; reports in the newspapers, on radio and television relating to election matters; approved posters, banners and Internet advertising that were already up, and books previously scheduled for publication.

  • Polling Day | Sept 11

    Sept 11, 2015 is a Friday and has been declared a public holiday. The polls are open from 8am to 8pm.

  • 2. What happens on Nomination Day?

    All potential candidates need to submit their forms and documents at the nomination centres between 11am and noon.

    Each candidate must be accompanied by his or her proposer, seconder and at least four assentors. They must all be registered voters in the district the candidate is contesting.

    Objections to the nomination papers can be made in writing between 11am and 12.30pm by any rival candidate for the same constituency or any of the proposers, seconders or assentors. Any errors on the forms must be corrected before noon.

    Candidates can also give thank you speeches to their supporters after the close of nomination. These have to be kept to within a minute for solo candidates and three minutes for teams contesting a GRC.

    3. Who can stand for election?

    Citizens aged at least 21, who are registered to vote and have lived a total of 10 years or more in Singapore, can stand for parliamentary elections.

    They can be disqualified under the law if they are undischarged bankrupts, convicted of an offence in Singapore or Malaysia and sentenced to a jail term of a year or more, or a fine of not less than $2,000, among other things.

    4. What is an election deposit?

    Those seeking nomination also need to pay an election deposit equal to 8 per cent of the total allowances payable to a Member of Parliament in the preceding calendar year, rounded to the nearest $500.

    The security deposit for the coming election is $14,500 - a decrease of $1,500 from the $16,000 required in the last general election.

    The deposit will be refunded if the candidate polls at least 12.5 per cent of the valid votes cast.

    5. What if there are no contenders on Nomination Day?

    At the close of the nomination period, if there is only one candidate for that constituency, he or she will be declared the elected MP for that ward.

    In the last election in 2011, Tanjong Pagar GRC was the only constituency that saw such a walkover. The five candidates in the GRC, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, lawyer Indranee Rajah, medical practitioner Lily Neo, former army chief Chan Chun Sing and doctor Chia Shi-Lu, won seats in Parliament on Nomination Day.

    Parties, MPs & Constituencies

    1. How do I find out which constituency I am in?

    One in five voters, or 19 per cent of voters, will find themselves in a new constituency for the coming election.

    For a quick check, key in your address using the search function built into our electoral boundaries map.

    You can also check your electoral division and personal particulars in the updated registers of electors on the Singapore Elections Department (ELD) website.

    Alternatively, you can check in person at the ELD building at 11 Prinsep Link, or at community clubs and centres, with your identity card. Read more here.

    2. Which are the newly-created constituencies?

    Three SMCs (Bukit Batok, Fengshan and MacPherson) and one GRC (Jalan Besar) - which did not feature in the 2011 General Election - made a comeback.

    A brand new GRC - Marsiling-Yew Tee - was created.

    Two SMCs (Joo Chiat and Whampoa) and one GRC (Moulmein-Kallang) from the 2011 General Election were absorbed into other constituencies.

    3. What is a single-member constituency (SMC)?

    It is an electoral division represented by one MP.

    Every constituency was an SMC until the 1988 General Election, when GRCs were introduced.

    The 13 SMCs in the coming general election are: Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang, Fengshan, Hong Kah North, Hougang, MacPherson, Mountbatten, Pioneer, Potong Pasir, Punggol East, Radin Mas, Sengkang West, and Yuhua. Read more here

    4. What is a group representation constituency (GRC)?

    GRCs are electoral divisions that are grouped together as one electoral unit, and they made an appearance in the 1988 General Election. The intent is to ensure minority races are represented in Parliament.

    Under the law, a GRC may be represented by three to six MPs.

    Political parties must field a team with at least one member of a minority group to contest a GRC, and voters must choose between teams, not individuals. The race of the mandatory minority member is stipulated by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee before a general election.

    The GRCs in this election are: Read more here

    • 4-MP GRCs
      • Chua Chu Kang
      • East Coast
      • Holland-Bukit Panjang
      • Jalan Besar
      • Marsiling-Yew Tee
      • West Coast
    • 5-MP GRCs
      • Aljunied
      • Bishan-Toa Payoh
      • Jurong
      • Marine Parade
      • Nee Soon
      • Sembawang
      • Tampines
      • Tanjong Pagar
    • 6-MP GRCs
      • Ang Mo Kio
      • Pasir Ris-Punggol

    5. What is the average number of MPs per GRC?

    It is currently five, and it will drop further to 4.75 in the coming election.

    The size of GRCs has changed over the years.

    There were 42 SMCs and 13 three-member GRCs in the 1988 General Election. Subsequently, the Constitution and the Parliamentary Elections Act were changed to allow for four, then six candidates in each GRC.

    In the 2006 election, there were nine SMCs, nine five-man GRCs and five six-man GRCs.

    In 2009, a number of changes were made to the political system to provide for more diverse views in Parliament. PM Lee asked for GRCs to be shrunk, saying that it was harder for voters to identify with the whole slate of MPs in a six-member GRC.

    In the 2011 general election, the number of six-member GRCs fell to two - Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol.

    In the latest round of changes, PM Lee asked the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee to have smaller GRCs. The number of five-member GRC was hence reduced to eight from 11 for the coming election.

    6. Which is the largest constituency and which is the smallest?

    Ang Mo Kio GRC is the largest constituency for the coming election, with 187,652 voters. Potong Pasir SMC is the smallest with 17,389 voters.

    There are 2,460,977 Singaporeans - citizens aged at least 21 as of Feb 1, 2015 - registered to vote. This works out to an average of about 28,000 voters per elected MP.

    Based on a deviation rule of 30 per cent to determine the lower and upper limits of voters each division should have, each MP should represent about 20,000 to 37,000 voters.

    7. What are elected MPs, Nominated MPs and Non-Constituency MPs?

  • Elected MPs

    They win their seats (or were uncontested) at a general election and are in charge of constituencies. There will be 89 MPs after the coming general election, up from 87 now.

  • Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs)

    They are the best-performers among opposition candidates who lose in an election.

    The NCMP scheme was introduced in 1984 to ensure opposition representation in Parliament. If fewer than three opposition candidates were elected, then NCMPs can be chosen from the "best-losers", provided they won more than 15 per cent of the vote.

    NCMPs cannot vote on amendments to the Constitution, supply Bills, and no-confidence motions.

    In 2010, the minimum number of opposition voices in Parliament was raised to nine, subject to the number of elected opposition candidates. Three NCMPs were named after the 2011 election - Workers' Party's (WP) Mr Yee Jenn Jong and Mr Gerald Giam, and Mrs Lina Chiam from the Singapore People's Party - because the WP won six seats at that election.

  • Nominated MPs (NMPs)

    The NMP scheme was introduced in 1990 to boost the number of alternative voices in the House.

    They do not stand for election and have no constituencies. They are appointed by the President for a two-and-a-half year term, on the recommendation of a Special Select Committee of Parliament chaired by the Speaker.

    There are nine NMPs now, the maximum as provided for in the Constitution.

    Like NCMPs, they cannot vote on amendments to the Constitution, supply Bills, and no-confidence motions.

  • 8. Which are the political parties standing in the coming election?

    There are dozens of registered political parties in Singapore, but a large number are inactive. In the 2011 General Election, seven main parties, including the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), took part in the hustings. This time round, as many as 10 parties may contest the coming election.

    They are:

  • People's Action Party: Founded in 1954. The party secured 81 of the 87 seats in the last election in 2011. It won 60.1 per cent of the vote share, down from 66.6 per cent in the 2006 polls.
  • Workers' Party: Founded in 1957. It is the opposition party with the most number of seats in Parliament - seven. The WP-held constituencies are: Aljunied GRC, Hougang SMC and Punggol East SMC.
  • Singapore People's Party: Formed in 1994. Led by veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong. His wife Lina Chiam failed to defend Potong Pasir SMC by a wafer-thin 114 votes in the 2011 election.
  • Singapore Democratic Party: Founded in 1980. Led by Dr Chee Soon Juan.
  • National Solidarity Party: Founded in 1987. Led by Mr Sebastian Teo.
  • Reform Party: Formed in 2008 by late opposition firebrand J.B. Jeyaratnam. Now headed by his son Kenneth.
  • Singapore Democratic Alliance: Set up in 2011, headed by Mr Desmond Lim. It is currently made up of the Singapore Malay National Organisation (PKMS) and the Singapore Justice Party.
  • Democratic Progressive Party: The party was first formed in 1973, and has been revived by Mr Benjamin Pwee, who contested in the 2011 election under the SPP banner.
  • Singaporeans First Party: Launched in May 2014, the founding members are former presidential election candidate Tan Jee Say and Dr Ang Guan Yong. Both contested under the SDP banner in the 2011 election.
  • People's Power Party: New party registered in July 2015 by long-time opposition politician Goh Meng Seng who was previously with the NSP and the WP.
  • 9. How do I know what the parties stand for?

    The parties will unveil their manifestos closer to the election. The manifestos will set out where they stand on issues, and their proposed policies for the nation.

    Besides attending election rallies, you can find out more about the parties and candidates through their websites and campaign material.

    Polling Day

    1. Who can vote?

    Singapore citizens aged 21 and above as of Feb 1, 2015, and are on the registers of electors can vote in the coming election. Voting is compulsory in Singapore.

    The Elections Department will send a polling card to eligible voters to their last-known address on their identity card before Polling Day. The card will tell voters which polling station they should go to.

    Voters who do not receive their polling card three days after Nomination Day should call the election hotline, email the Elections Department or visit any community centre/club to obtain another poll card. Contact Singapore Elections Department.

    2. How do I check if I am on the registers of electors?

    You can check using the following ways:

  • On the Elections Department website, using Singpass
  • In person at the Election Department at 11 Prinsep Link, with your identity card
  • In person at any community centre or club, with your identity card
  • 3. What should I do if my name is not on the registers?

    Those who were qualified to vote but did not do so in the last election will be struck off the registers of electors. They will not be able to vote at subsequent elections, and are disqualified from being a candidate at any presidential or parliamentary election.

    To restore their name to the registers, they must submit an application to the Elections Department and explain why they did not vote in the last election.

    A fee of $50 will be imposed if they did not have a valid reason for not voting.

    Valid reasons include being overseas on Polling Day or illness.

    4. What should I do on Polling Day?

    Polling stations usually open at 8am and close at 8pm on Polling Day. You can only go to the station indicated on your polling card.

    Bring your polling card and original identification documents, which can be your identity card or passport. Photocopies are not accepted.

    Identify yourself to the polling officer, who will give you a ballot paper. They may ask you to make a declaration of identity and sign the declaration before giving you a ballot paper.

    5. How do I indicate my choice on the ballot paper?

    Mark your choice clearly with an 'X' in the box on the right of the ballot paper, beside the name, photo and symbol of the candidate of your choice.

    To cast a valid vote:

  • Clearly choose only one party
  • Do not write your name or particulars that may identify you
  • You have only one chance at this. If you change your mind or mark the wrong candidate, you will not get a new ballot paper. This prevents a person from casting multiple votes, and enables strict accounting of all ballots issued and cast.
  • This election, candidates' photos will be added to enable voters to better identify who they wish to vote for. Other changes to the format of the ballot paper include white boxes against a darkened background, and wider gaps between the boxes to mark "X" to prevent voters from marking across boxes of different rows.

    6. Will I be penalised for casting a spoilt vote?

    No, but you will have missed the opportunity to exercise your right to vote.

    7. Is my vote secret? If so, why is there a serial number on the ballot?

    Yes, it is. The serial number is to counter electoral fraud.

    The serial numbers enable strict accounting of all ballot papers issued and cast. The number of papers found in the ballot box at the end of the election can be matched to the number of papers issued during the poll. This prevents ballot box stuffing.

    Theoretically, it is possible for anyone with access to the ballot papers to identify who cast a particular vote. The counterfoil has the voter's registration number on it and matching that to the ballot paper and the electoral register will help reveal a voter's identity. This is used as evidence if there is an allegation of impersonation.

    However, ballot papers can be examined only under strict conditions; safeguards are in place to make it difficult to find out how any particular voter voted.

    After the election, the ballot papers and election documents are sealed and kept at the Supreme Court for six months before being destroyed.

    8. What are the dos and don'ts?

  • Do respect the privacy of other voters.
  • Do double-check your particulars on your polling card, including your name, identity card number and polling station location.
  • Other things not to bring into the polling station include cameras, video cameras, alcohol, sharp objects, large bags and animals/pets (except guide dogs).
  • Don't be late, as voters who are late will not be allowed to vote, even if they are in the queue before the station closes.
  • Don't bring any document or material, or wear any attire or badge, which shows a political party's or candidate's symbol. The law prohibits canvassing and all forms of election activity on Polling Day, except voting.
  • 9. What if I am busy on Polling Day?

    You must vote in person and cannot appoint a proxy to cast your vote for you.

    Polling Day is designated a public holiday, and employers need to give employees a reasonable period of time to cast their vote.

    Those who did not vote will have their names removed from the registers of electors, but they can apply to have their names restored after the election.

    10. What if I am living overseas?

    Singapore citizens residing overseas may apply to be registered as an overseas elector to vote at one of 10 designated overseas polling stations.

    The citizen needs to have stayed in Singapore for a total of at least 30 days between Feb 1, 2012 and Jan 31, 2015.

    Registration will be suspended for both local and overseas voters once the writ of election has been issued.

    The overseas polling stations are located within 10 Singapore high commissions, embassies or consulates in countries or cities, where there is a significant number of Singaporeans.

    The cities are Canberra, London, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai, Washington, San Francisco and New York.

    If you have not registered yourself as an overseas elector, you can still return to Singapore to cast your vote on Polling Day.

    11. How are votes counted?

    Votes are counted by hand at counting centres by election officials. Counting centres are typically schools or community centres.

    After the close of polling at 8pm, the ballot boxes are sealed and transported from the polling station to the counting centre under police escort.

    At the counting centre, the candidates and their counting agents may inspect the boxes again to ensure they have not been tampered with.

    The first results are usually broadcast after the votes are tallied at around 9.30pm to 10pm.

    12. How are winners decided?

    In the first-past-the-post system, the candidate, or team of candidates with the highest number of valid votes wins even if they do not have the bulk of the votes.

    For GRCs, the votes are cast for the entire team, not individual candidates.

    13. Under what circumstances will there be a recount?

    A recount of votes may be allowed if the difference in votes between two candidates is 2 per cent or less of the total number of valid votes cast. Only one application for a recount can be made.

    In the 2011 General Election, a recount was held for Potong Pasir SMC. The People's Action Party's Sitoh Yih Pin beat the Singapore People's Party's Lina Chiam to win the seat with just 114 votes, or a mere 0.7 percentage point.

    There was another close call in Nee Soon Central SMC in 1991, when the Singapore Democratic Party's Cheo Chai Chen won with a 0.6 per cent margin. A recount confirmed that just 168 votes separated him from PAP incumbent Ng Pock Too.