10 Facts About Being a S’pore President Except Being an ATM for S’pore


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Last Updated on 2023-08-08 , 3:27 pm

Since Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s announcement of his intention to run for President, the presidency has become a hot new topic among the uncles and aunties at the coffee shop.

If you’re looking to impress the auntie at the drinks store so that she’ll add more kopi instead of peng to your kopi peng order, why not try impressing her with your knowledge about Singapore’s presidency?

If you’d like to, you can watch this video instead:

We all know that the Singapore President is like the nation’s ATM—budgets and proposed transactions of any statutory board or government company must go through the President first. But do you know anything else about the presidency beyond that?

Here are ten other facts about the Singapore President to memorise so you can impress everyone at the kopitiam.

Parliamentary Bills Cannot Become Law Unless the S’pore President Assents

Let’s see what powers the President has beyond being the nation’s ATM.

If you didn’t already know, this is how the law is made in Singapore: a Bill is usually first introduced in Parliament as a draft. Afterwards, the Bill will be debated, which is when you start to see YouTube clips of Ministers “picking fights” with others. A committee will then look through the Bill before the Bill is read another time in Parliament. The Bill must then get the “okay” from the Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR).

But that’s not the end of it.

This is where the Singapore President’s powers come in. The Bill can only become law if the President assents to it.

Put in Monopoly terms, if the President plays a “Just Say No” to the Bill, the Bill cannot become law.

The next time you’re trying to impress your lunchtime kakis with your knowledge, you can let them know that they wouldn’t be dealing with the GST hike if it weren’t for the President’s assent to the Bill on the GST hike.

Maybe not everything is to be blamed purely on Ministers lah, hor?

The S’pore President Can Dissolve Parliament

On the subject of Parliament, did you know that all that Parliament beef that Singaporean netizens live for can disappear at the snap of the President’s finger?

Goodbye to future heated exchanges between Singapore’s Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) secretary-general Mr Leong Mun Wai.

This is because the Singapore President has the power to dissolve Parliament. However, this is subject to the advice of the Prime Minister.


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Better cherish those parliamentary debates.

Regardless, Singapore’s Presidents usually only dissolve Parliament when the deadline to call for General Elections is approaching. For instance, in June 2020, Mdm Halimah Yacob called for the dissolution of Parliament on PM Lee’s advice, given the need to call for the General Elections.

Perhaps in two years, we’ll see SM Tharman call for the Parliament’s dissolution for 2025’s General Elections. We wonder who will be filling his spot in Jurong GRC.

The S’pore President Holds the Power to Appoint an MP as Prime Minister 

Have you ever wondered how we chose our PMs?

As it turns out, the President must appoint the PM—you can’t just step up, claim that your surname is “Lee”, and try to become the PM.


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The MP who commands the confidence of a majority of the MPs in Parliament will be appointed by the President to be the PM.

The Singapore President also has the power to appoint Cabinet members—the more “dua” Ministers.

S’pore President Also Has the Power to Appoint Several Other Key Office Holders

The PM and the Cabinet members aren’t the only big names the President may appoint.

The CJ, Judges and Judicial Commissioners on the Supreme Court Bench must all be appointed by the President on the PM’s advice.

If you’ve learnt anything thus far, we hope it’s this: you probably can’t get too high up the ladder if the kid you threw a fake cockroach at in primary school becomes Singapore’s future President.

Other key positions, like the Chairman and members of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR) and the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony (PCRH), must also be given the “okay” from the President.


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Let’s hope you don’t have childhood beef with the future President.

Members of the Council of Presidential Advisers Must Be Appointed By… The S’pore President 

You might know that the Singapore President must consult the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) when it comes to the President’s exercise of custodial powers, meaning if Mdm Halimah wants to touch Singapore’s budget or remove PM Lee, the CPA must be consulted.

Essentially, the President must consult the CPA regarding all fiscal or appointment-related matters.

However, you might not know that the eight CPA members must be appointed by the President herself.

It’s like the President’s own little chess club.


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Specifically, three members can be appointed by the President with no restrictions. However, other CPA members are appointed by the President on the advice of other key office holders, including the PM and the Chief Justice (CJ).

Alternate members are also appointed by the President. However, one of these alternate members must be nominated by the PM in consultation with the CJ and Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Whether A Restraining Order is Made Under the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act Depends on S’pore President

Moving beyond “ATM” and appointment powers, the Singapore President also has the power to “Just Say No” to a restraining order made under the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA).

If you weren’t listening in school, the MRHA was enacted in 1990 to, quite literally, maintain religious harmony. Individuals caught stirring up religious “beef” may be issued a restraining order under the MRHA from the Government.

And when it comes to issuing the restraining order, your fate lies in the President’s hands. The Singapore President has the last say on whether to cancel, vary, confirm or refuse to confirm a restraining order made under the MRHA.

Put very simply, it’s like when your father decides to ground you, but your Asian tiger mom ultimately holds the keys as to whether you’ll actually be grounded—the President is like your tiger mom.

Detention Under the Internal Security Act: Permission Required From S’pore President

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Singapore’s Internal Security Act (ISA).

The ISA is a powerful law that makes it okay for offenders to be detained for extended periods. They may be detained for 48 hours, 14 days, or even 30 days.


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The longer the offender is detained, the more influential the person to whom the case must be reported.

For instance, if a person is to be detained for more than 48 hours, the case must be reported to the Commissioner of Police.

More than 14 days? Report to the Minister for Home Affairs.

Detention for more than 30 days involves an Order of Detention to be approved by the Minister of Home Affairs. Additionally, permission must also be sought from the Singapore President to do so.

It’s like when you used to take a “toilet pass” to go to the washroom in primary school.

Regardless, for any preventive detentions, even if they don’t stretch beyond 30 days, the President can step in to veto the gahmen‘s proposal to detain a person.

Will an Offender be Hanged? S’pore President May Make Final Call

If you’re an avid scroller of Instagram social justice accounts, you’ve probably heard of this buzzword: clemency.

That’s another one of the Singapore President’s powers.

You’ll usually see a contemplation of whether presidential clemency should be exercised regarding offenders facing the death penalty.

Given that presidential clemency is usually an offender’s final attempt to avoid the death penalty after reaching a dead end, the President usually finds themselves making the last call on whether an offender should be hanged.

However, it’s rare for Presidents to exercise this power and to grant clemency. We’ll see if this card successfully comes into play anytime soon in the coming years.

S’pore President Has the Power to Declare National Emergency 

In the past few years dealing with COVID-19, you may have read that countries such as the US or the Philippines have declared national emergencies for COVID-19.

Singapore didn’t.

However, the Singapore President does have the power to do so, but only if they’re satisfied that there is a sufficiently grave emergency to Singapore’s security or economy.

The President can do practically anything after declaring a state of national emergency. Even raising the GST by another ten per cent.

It’s a lot of power for the President; that’s why Singapore has only declared one national emergency throughout its history—when faced with the threat of a communist takeover in 1948.

Now that’s a fun fact you can bring up to make yourself sound smart at the hawker centre.

The President’s Challenge is Part of the S’pore President’s Job

Yes, you read that right. It’s part of the Singapore President’s job to run the annual President’s Challenge campaign.

The President has three key roles—ceremonial, community and constitutional.

Most of the powers vested in the President we mentioned above fall under the President’s constitutional role.

In contrast, the President’s ceremonial role is to, you know, the usual—to shake hands and take pictures with others at ceremonies and on the international stage. It’s like a zhng-ed up influencer.

On the other hand, the President’s community role is to, quite literally, do whatever they can for the community. One way is through the annual President’s Challenge.

With three significant roles to juggle and so many powers vested in you, being a President is no mean feat. Regardless, countless Singaporeans believe that SM Tharman is the man for the job.

You can read more about SM Tharman’s resignation from PAP to run for President here.