All The Chim Election Terms Simplified for You So You Can Sound Like an Expert During Social Gatherings

When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong put on the pinkest shirt he could find in his close and addressed the nation, people started panicking.

Some bought 15 cups of bubble tea, some devoured Chendol at the coffee shop, and others went to the beach for a picnic even though it was raining heavily.

Everyone assumed that the much-detested circuit breaker would return, presumably because the authorities were upset with how much drunk fighting occurred on the first day of Phase 2.

But it was actually to inform citizens that he’s called the 2020 General Election.

Image: Tenor

An hour after the announcement was made, you discuss the election with your friends while having a meal at the coffee shop.

Then they start talking about constituencies, writ of elections, and the dissolving of parliament, so you stuff your face with Prata hoping they won’t ask you any questions.

What the heck do all these election terms mean?

Well, that’s what we’re here for. Here are all the chim election terms simplified for you.

General Election

Ok, so this isn’t exactly chim, but it’s a good place to start.

There are two types of elections in Singapore –  Parliamentary election and Presidential election.

In a presidential election the candidate with the most number of votes is elected and becomes the President of the country.

In a parliamentary election, we cast our votes for a candidate or group of candidates for political office.

The candidate or group of candidates with the most number of votes is elected and becomes a Member or Members of Parliament (MP)

And a general election is when an election is held simultaneously in every constituency, to fill the seats of Members of Parliament following the dissolution of Parliament.

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Which brings us to our next term:

Dissolution of Parliament

When a parliament is dissolved, it means that the parliament has been broken up, and all Members of Parliament (MPs) are required to vacate their seats.

It’s basically like when your favourite K-Pop band breaks up. Only this time no hearts are broken.

Wait, does that mean that there’s no one in charge? We can finally act on our fantasies to reenact The Purge!

Image: Giphy

There’s still a government in place, of course. There’d be anarchy in the streets otherwise, and by that I mean every single bubble tea store in the country would be looted.

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When a parliament is dissolved, general elections must be held within three months. But until the election is held, the Singapore government retains decision-making power, according to Mothership.

Writ of Election

If you’re wondering why so many election terms involve English words that were probably only used in common parlance back in the 1500s, it’s because the law and politics are built on tradition.


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This is why you and I never use the word writ in speech unless we’re lawyers or talking about the election.

In a parliamentary election, a writ of election is a public document issued by the President to mark the start of an election. It specifies the dates of the polls and directs the Returning Officer to hold the election.

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Returning Officer 

If you’re old enough, you might remember this fine man:

Image: AsiaOne

This is Mr Yam Ah Mee, returning officer for the 2011 General Elections. Yam amused Singaporean voters as he announced the results in a monotonous voice with an expressionless face.

Some wondered if he was actually human, or a human-like cyborg from the future. We still don’t know the answer.


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Yam’s job for the 2011 elections, as is every Returning Officer’s, is to oversee the impartial and smooth conduct of elections.

The returning officer (RO) will also be the one declaring results for the parliamentary general elections.

This year, our RO will be Mr Tan Meng Dui, who is the CEO of the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Image: Jurong Port

Mr Tan is a former deputy secretary (technology) at the Ministry of Defence and held the rank of Brigadier General (BG) in the SAF.

Register of Electors

The register of electors is a list of all the qualified voters belonging to a constituency for the purpose of an election.


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There is one register for each constituency.

If you meet the criteria to be eligible to vote at Parliamentary and Presidential elections, your name will be in the register of the constituency where you should vote.

Constituency/Electoral Division

A constituency, or electoral division, is an area of Singapore for which a Member of Parliament (MP) is elected to Parliament to represent the residents of the area.

There are two types of electoral divisions – Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) and Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

An SMC is an electoral division that has a single Member of Parliament (MP) representing the residents of the constituency.


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A GRC is a larger electoral division where a group of MPs represents the interests of the residents of the constituency.

For the 2020 General Election, there will be 14 SMCs and 17 GRCs, and each GRC will have either four or five MPs.

Nomination Day

As you know, a nomination is a process of selecting a candidate for an election. So, on Nomination Day, potential candidates are required to submit their nomination papers and certificates to the Returning Officer.


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If only one candidate (SMC), or one group of candidates (GRC) is nominated, then it’ll be a walkover; since there’s no one else to contest in the election, the sole nominee will win by default.

But when more than one candidate (SMC) or more than one group of candidates (GRC) is nominated, then the Returning Officer will adjourn the election to polling day, where electors can vote for their nominee of choice.

The Nomination Day for this election will be on 30 June 2020.

Cooling Off Day

Remember that time you broke up with your girlfriend in the heat of the moment because she said your favourite TV show was dumb?

It felt right at the time, but then, a few hours later, you realised you acted like an absolute dumbass.


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Our emotions can influence our actions and make us think and behave irrationally.

This is why we have a Cooling Off Day before we vote. After listening to political rallies, it’s easy to get emotionally charged.

This 24-hour period gives us time to reflect rationally on issues before voting. This will allow electors to vote objectively without being ruled by their emotions.

And then it’s polling day: time to vote.

Why Now?

In his address to the nation, PM Lee said that he called the General Election now because the Covid-19 situation is relatively stable, and he wants to “clear the decks” and give the new government a fresh, full five-year mandate.


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Polling Day will be on 10 July, and it’ll be a public holiday, just like every other day for the last two months.

This year, 2,653,942 voters will be heading to the polls, up from 2015’s 2,460,484.

As PM Lee said, we’ll have to vote wisely. Voting the wrong politician into office could spell disaster for a country.

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Image: Wikipedia

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