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Backgrounds: Singapore Government
According to the constitution, as amended in 1965, Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of government. Political authority rests with the prime minister and the cabinet. The prime minister is the leader of the political party or coalition of parties having the majority of seats in parliament. The president, who is chief of state, previously exercised only ceremonial duties. As a result of 1991 constitutional changes, the president is now elected and exercises expanded powers over legislative appointments, government budgetary affairs, and internal security matters.
The unicameral Parliament currently consists of 84 members elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and nine "nominated" members of Parliament. A constitutional provision assures at least three opposition members, even if fewer than three actually are elected. A "nonconstituency" seat held by the opposition under this provision since 1997 was again filled after the last election. In the last general election, in November 2001, the governing People's Action Party (PAP) won 82 of the 84 seats. The president appoints nominated members of Parliament from among nominations by a special select committee. Nominated members of Parlliament enjoy the same privileges as members of Parliament but cannot vote on constitutional matters or expenditures of funds. The maximum term of any one Parliament is 5 years. Voting has been compulsory since 1959.
Judicial power is vested in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The High Court exercises original criminal and civil jurisdiction in serious cases as well as appellate jurisdiction from subordinate courts. Its chief justice, senior judge, and six judges are appointed by the president. Appeals from the High Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. The right of appeal to the Privy Council in London was abolished effective April 1994.
Singapore maintains an embassy in the United States at 3501 International Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/537-3100, fax 202/537-0876).
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