The application to the High Court for a declaration that the Prime Minister does not have an unfettered discretion in deciding whether and when to call a by-election has been withdrawn. The applicant also asked the court to order the Prime Minister to call a by-election for Hougang within three months or a reasonable time.
While I would not, unlike Professor Thio Li-ann, compare the withdrawal to a cancellation of my favourite rock group’s (Bon Jovi, by the way) concert, there is indeed a sense of disappointment with the withdrawal of the application, which nonetheless is the right move by the applicant given that Nomination Day has been announced. Constitutional challenges are rare in Singapore. We had missed another interesting one on the constitutionality of section 377A of the Penal Code in PP v Tan Eng Hong when the 377A charges were amended.
I have earlier expressed my views on this by-election conundrum. To summarise, the text of the Constitution can (as with most things legal) be read either in favour of or against a generous discretion limited only by the requirement of General Elections. The substantive history of our constitution and our democratic model tend to suggest a preference for such a generous discretion within the Prime Minister’s power. However, there are problems that could arise under a less responsible Prime Minister and I am in favour of imposing, through legislation or constitutional amendment, a time limit of six months or thereabouts.