Separation of Powers in Singapore

Written By: Leon Leon

Editor: Jenna Jokhani

“If the legislative and executive authorities are one institution, there will be no freedom. There won’t be freedom anyway if the judiciary body is not separated from the legislative and executive authorities.” -Charles de Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (1748)

This article discusses the governmental separation of powers in the context of Singapore, as well as some brief comparisons to the models used in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (US). The state governance concept of separation of powers asserts that authority and responsibilities must not be held by any one individual or entity. In simple terms, there must be more than one group of people that influences how a country is run.

Singapore, an overview of the partial separation of powers:

Singapore employs a partial separation model with three branches of government. These branches are the:

  • Legislative (law-making)

  • Executive (implementing the law)

  • Judiciary (law-enforcement)

Singapore’s executive branch, the cabinet, runs the government directly. The cabinet is composed of the president, prime minister, and members of parliament appointed by the president. Thus, to a certain degree, it is those in the cabinet that determine parliament agendas. The cabinet also has legislative influence through delegated legislation, where laws can be passed under the authority of a statute (the highest form of law), and not through parliament.

The legislative branch, Parliament, holds the cabinet collectively responsible. This means that all cabinet ministers must support the cabinet’s decisions, even if they do not personally agree with them. The cabinet must vote for the government in the legislature. However, it is important to note that there are some checks and balances in place to prevent an accumulation of power by the cabinet. For instance, in parliament motions, cabinet ministers must justify their policies not only to one another but also to members from opposition parties and non-elected members who are not affiliated with any political party.

The judicial branch of Singapore acts more