Separation of powers in Singapore
Separation of powers in Singapore is founded on the concept of constitutionalism, which is itself primarily based upon distrust of power and thus the desirability of limited government. To achieve this, the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore splits the power to govern the country between three branches of government – the legislature, which makes laws; the executive, which executes them; and the judiciary, which enforces them. Each branch, while wielding legitimate power and being protected from external influences, is subjected to a system of checks and balances by the other branches to prevent abuse of power. This Westminster constitutional model was inherited from the British during Singapore's colonial years.The Singapore system of government, as with those of a number of other Commonwealth jurisdictions, exhibits a partial separation of powers. The Cabinet is a parliamentary executive as the Prime Minister and other ministers are drawn from the Members of Parliament (MPs). Hence, it is the Cabinet that drives Parliament's legislative agenda. In addition, the executive possesses some law-making power as it is authorised to issue subsidiary legislation, while the President is a member of both the executive and the legislature.The legislature exercises a check upon the executive by imposing a weak sanction through the doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility. Cabinet ministers may be called upon to justify their policies in Parliament by elected MPs (backbenchers belonging to the ruling party and opposition MPs), as well as non-elected Members (Non-constituency members of parliament (NCMPs) and Nominated members of parliament (NMPs)).In line with the concept of constitutional supremacy, the judiciary has the role of safeguarding the Constitution, and acts as an institutional check through its inherent power to strike down unconstitutional laws, and to invalidate acts or decisions by the executive which are inconsistent with the Constitution or with administrative law rules. However, judicial power is not unfettered and is also restrained by constitutional and legislative prohibitions. The judiciary also defers to the executive where non-justiciable matters are involved. Judicial independence allows the judiciary to check the exercise of power by the other branches of government more effectively, enhancing the idea of the separation of powers. Constitutional safeguards exist to secure the independence of Supreme Court judges, but a point of contention is that State Courts judges do not enjoy security of tenure as they are members of the Singapore Legal Service and may be transferred out of the State Courts to other departments of the Service by the Legal Service Commission.The separation of powers in Singapore is also enhanced by intra-branch checking mechanisms. Within the executive, the Elected President adds to the overall scheme of checks and balances through his discretionary power to block certain government actions. However, the presence of an override mechanism wielded by Parliament blunts the office's powers. The Presidential Council for Minority Rights also serves as a check on the legislature by reviewing bills to ensure that they do not discriminate against racial and religious minorities. However, the Council's powers are constrained by the presence of an override mechanism as well.