First female President to be advised by all-male advisory council

First female President to be advised by all-male advisory council
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Halimah Yacob will become the first female Elected President of Singapore on Wednesday. When she takes on the role, she will be advised by the 10-member, all-male unelected Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA).

The CPA comprise 8 members and 2 alternate members, and are appointed – the President and Prime Minister each nominate 3 appointees, with the Chief Justice and Chairman of the Public Service Commission each nominating one appointee.

Members of the council are initially appointed to a 6-year term and are eligible for reappointment on 4-year terms.

The alternate members step in if and when any of the other members are unable to exercise their duties.

Under recently revised laws, the elected president must consult the council before exercising his powers to veto the Budgets of the Government and key government-linked bodies, and on the appointments of key personnel in the public service.

The revised rules grant the unelected CPA powers to, effectively and potentially, nullify the President’s disagreement in certain matters. (See the list here.)

If the council agrees with the President’s veto on these matters and the council agrees, then the veto is final and Parliament must comply. If the council disagrees, the President can still use his veto, but the matter will be sent to Parliament to decide. Parliament can override the veto with a simple two-thirds majority.

With Parliament overwhelmingly occupied by one single party, such a mechanism gives the ruling party virtually unfettered power to dismiss the President’s concerns.

Halimah Yacob, who has limited experience in finance matters, will have to depend heavily on the CPA for advise on these matters.

As for being in the company of an all-men council, she can perhaps take some comfort – her former colleague in the PAP, Grace Fu, is also the only female member in an otherwise all-male Cabinet.