Singapore is a republic and parliamentary democracy with a non-executive president. The constitution of 1959 provides for a head of state, a prime minister, a cabinet and a unicameral parliament.

Singapore’s first four presidents were elected by parliament; the first presidential elections by popular vote were held in 1993. Since 1993, presidents are elected for a six year term. The position is largely ceremonial. The president appoints the prime minister, who is generally the leader of the largest party or coalition in parliament. The president also appoints the cabinet, though it is the prime minister who carries out the selection process from the members of parliament. Executive power is vested in the prime minister and cabinet.

Parliament is made up of three types of members: 87 elected members, up to nine nominated members (NMPs) and up to three non-constituency members (NCMPs) from the opposition political parties. In early 2011 the Eleventh Parliament had 94 members, comprising 84 elected members, nine NMPs and one NCMP. Members are elected for five year terms.

Suffrage is compulsory and universal for those over the age of 21.

The constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary. The Supreme Court comprises the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Other courts include the district courts, magistrates’ courts, Coroner’s Court, Juvenile Court and Family Court. The Court of Appeal is the final court of appeal. The High Court has original jurisdiction in the most serious civil and criminal cases and appellate jurisdiction in appeals from the lower courts. The district and magistrates’ courts both have jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters, the more serious cases coming before the district courts.