High Court rejects appeal for by-election in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC

The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge that called for three MPs to vacate their spots in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC and for a by-election to be held.

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) assistant treasurer Wong Souk Yee had made the application to the High Court after Madam Halimah Yacob resigned as an MP from the constituency to run in the September presidential election, which she won in a walkover.

Speaking to reporters after the ruling, SDP chairman Paul Tambyah said that SDP is "very disappointed" with the ruling.

The party will study the judgment and consult with Dr Wong and lawyer Peter Low on whether to appeal.

In his ruling yesterday, Justice Chua Lee Ming said there is no legal provision for sitting MPs to be compelled to leave their seats, when one spot in their GRC is vacated.

Mr Low argued that if a by-election is not called, the Parliamentary Elections Act should be interpreted such that all MPs of the GRC have to leave their spots when one seat is left empty, or when no remaining MP is a minority candidate.

He cited Article 49(1) of the Constitution, which states that when "the seat of a Member... has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election".

But the judge, who heard the application in January, rejected Mr Low's reading of Article 49(1).

The Constitution does spell out - in Article 46(2) - the circumstances under which a seat becomes vacant, and none of them apply to the remaining MPs in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, he noted.

Justice Chua concluded that there is no legal basis to require the other MPs in the GRC to vacate their seats, adding that there is no inconsistency in the law.

This is the first time a legal challenge has been mounted to determine whether a by-election is mandatory when a seat has been vacated in a GRC.

The three remaining MPs in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC are National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Mr Ong Teng Koon and Mr Alex Yam.

MP Zaqy Mohamad from the nearby Chua Chu Kang GRC has taken on the role of grassroots adviser to the ward Madam Halimah had served in.

Singapore Politics