Civil servants under the constitution hold their allegiance to the president. The symbolism that is attached to that is we actually serve at the pleasure of a politically neutral institution. It is one of the values of the civil service that we are politically impartial.
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SINGAPORE: The integrity of the election process took centrestage during a two—hour forum on Sunday afternoon, organised by the People’s Association Youth Movement.
The 200 youths who attended the forum traded views with a panel, which included Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
It was a no—holds—barred session, and the panel of four speakers weighed in on various issues, answering questions on election procedures.
A major part of the discussion was used to clarify concerns over the fairness of the voting process.
Some participants questioned the ability of civil servants to carry out their electoral duties in a non—partisan manner.
"I understand that the vote counters are the civil servants. So what is the process to appoint vote counters? So (what are) the checks done to ensure that they are politically neutral?" asked one youth.
The panel was quick to point out the integrity of voting procedures.
Deputy Principal Senior State Counsel from the Attorney—General’s Chambers, Owi Beng Ki, stated that civil servants serve the president.
"Civil servants under the constitution hold their allegiance to the president. The symbolism that is attached to that is we actually serve at the pleasure of a politically neutral institution. It is one of the values of the civil service that we are politically impartial," said Ms Owi.
Mr Teo noted that the process itself is transparent, and available to scrutiny from all parties.
He said: "It’s a process which is watched with eagle eyes by the candidates and by persons whom the candidates themselves appoint as counting agents. They’re present in the counting centres, and they watch with eagle eyes, everything which goes on in the counting centres."
Another issue that drew much debate was the prime minister’s right to redraw constituency boundaries.
Mr Teo said it was necessary to change boundary configurations from time to time to reflect population movement.
"The new family formation is something like 20,000 a year. And so these tend to move, and other people also move from one constituency to another. And in Singapore they tend to be quite clustered. So from time to time, there will be a necessity to change the boundary configurations," said Mr Teo.
Other questions from the participants dealt with the election procedures, ranging from why online voting is not allowed, to where overseas voting is conducted.
An interesting fact was also unearthed —— in the event a contested ward ends in a draw, the outcome of the vote comes down to drawing lots, or flipping a coin.