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     FrontPage Edition: Wed 18 May 2005

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Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill 2005

Source: www.mha.gov.sg

SPEECH BY MR WONG KAN SENG, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS (AMENDMENT) BILL 2005 ON MONDAY, 16 MAY 2005

Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, ¡®That the Bill be now read a second time¡¯.
Introduction
Sir, after the General Election (GE) in 2001, the Prime Minister set up a Review Committee to study how the election processes can be streamlined and simplified and how the conduct of elections can be improved, for both candidates and voters.
The Review Committee was chaired by the Permanent Secretary (Prime Minister¡¯s Office), Mr Eddie Teo and comprised senior election officials who were involved in the conduct of past GEs.
The Committee made a number of recommendations, many of which have been adopted. Members may recall reading about public officers undergoing election training. This is one of the Review Committee¡¯s recommendations which was implemented by the Elections Department as it did not require a legislative change.
The amendments contained in this Bill, and in the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill that will be read a second time after this, are introduced to implement those recommendations that require legislative changes.
Sir, there are 3 main groups of amendments in this Bill. Firstly, there are the amendments which focus on nomination processes. These are meant to reduce the present complexity in nomination procedures but still ensure responsible candidature to stand for parliamentary elections.
The Bill tries to improve accessibility to standing for election to Parliament by reducing or mitigating the existing risk of aspiring candidates failing to be nominated on account of technicalities and errors. We are also taking the opportunity to clarify certain provisions to ensure greater certainty in operation.
The second group of amendments relate to post-election processes, namely, post-election reporting of election expenditure.
The third and last group consists of miscellaneous amendments ranging from abolishing obsolete fees connected with voter registration to conferring powers of composition on the Returning Officer or officials in Elections Department.
I will cover each one of them in turn.
Nomination Procedures
Sir, the purpose of any parliamentary elections is to enable the electorate to cast votes to select representatives to Parliament from the various candidates who come forward.
However, the best and most suitable individual cannot be elected if he or she does not successfully complete the nomination process. The process by which a person is nominated is therefore as important as the final act of casting a vote.
While our nomination process must continue to ensure that only responsible and serious candidates can gain access, the process can afford to be simplified to reduce the risk of aspiring individuals failing to be nominated due to formal errors or non-compliance with procedures. Deserving candidates should not be disqualified from standing because of minor technicalities.
Our nomination proceedings today centre heavily on 4 sets of documents : the nomination paper, a Statutory Declaration as to qualifications, a political donations certificate and the relevant Certificate for a GRC.
These documents have to be submitted to the Returning Officer, in a certain manner following certain formalities and within the prescribed time. Nominees or candidates with incomplete or incorrect documents may find their nomination rejected or objected to successfully by their opponents.
In practice, the most common errors in nomination papers are wrong or incorrect register numbers of the proposer, seconder or the assentors (not fewer than 4).
To reduce the risk of such errors invalidating nominations, the Government has decided to remove the requirement for register numbers in the nomination paper.
The nominee and his proposer, seconder and assentors may be identified in the nomination paper by their NRIC numbers. You can see this change in clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill as they amend sections 27 and 27B, respectively. The form of the nomination paper will be revised after this Bill is enacted. The new form will also have space for up to 8 assentors, instead of the 6.
Nominees can therefore help themselves by obtaining a higher number of signatories just in case some of them are invalidated on account of errors. This will allow nominees a margin of error of up to 4 (an increase by 2). However, these changes do not do away with the current legal requirement that every nominee must secure constituent support for his nomination.
The proposer, seconder and assentors must all still be electors registered in the constituency for which the nominee is seeking election. To facilitate the checking of the electoral status of these signatories in nomination papers filed by their opponents, the Returning Officer will make available personal computer (PC) facilities loaded with the database of the registers of electors at every Nomination Centre for their use.
Next, clauses 5 and 6 amend sections 27 and 27B by merging the nomination paper with the statutory declaration as to qualifications to stand for election. This will reduce the number of papers to be filed with the Returning Officer on nomination day.
Sir, the manner in which nomination papers are to be delivered to the Returning Officer is also changed. Clause 7 amends section 29 to require nominees to be present at the nomination centre in person and accompanied by their proposer, seconder and at least 4 of their assentors.
Besides facilitating corrections of any particulars in the nomination paper, this requirement will also prevent any insertion of particulars or forging of signatures of any registered elector in nomination papers without the elector¡¯s knowledge.
As our present law already requires nominations to be made by the nominees in person, and accompanied by their proposer and seconder, it should not be difficult for the nominees to comply with the additional requirement of having their assentors to be present during nomination.
Currently, there is little room under present law for some minor errors in nomination papers. Defects in a nomination paper that are potentially rectifiable can be overlooked since they will not invalidate the nomination.
Hence, inaccurate names or misnomers, inaccurate descriptions of persons, or inaccurate descriptions of places can be overlooked where despite these inaccuracies or mistakes, the person or place is still identifiable. That is the position under section 103 today.
However, blanks and errors in numbers are fatal errors. That is, these cannot be rectified and a nomination paper with any such defect has to be rejected or may be successfully objected to.
More.....

Source: Ministry of Home Affairs Press Release 16 May 2005

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