After a sound performance in the 1992 by-election, this was another opportunity for Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to court a strong mandate after PAP's considerably poor showing in 1991. This election was also the first where the nomination and polling days were within different calendar years. The report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee was sent to PM's Office on 6 November 1996 and published on 21 November 1996. Two seats in PAP-held Eunos and Toa Payoh GRCs were vacated after the death of Dr Tay Eng Soon and inauguration of former Deputy PM Ong Teng Cheong as Singapore's fifth and first elected President respectively. The main opposition SDP was facing serious internal strife. Former leader Chiam See Tong sued and won against his party's central executive committee for defamation, which included its new leader Dr Chee Soon Juan and the two SDP MPs. A few days before nominations, Chiam resigned from SDP and crossed over to its splinter party, SPP. Two opposition candidates, Dr Chee and WP's Tang Liang Hong, came under heavy fire from PAP. Tang, who was standing on the WP ticket with secretary-general J. B. Jeyaretnam, was accused by PAP of being an anti-Christian Chinese chavunist. GRCs were increased to between four and six seats each. For the first time, a Nominated MP, listed company director Chia Shi Teck, ran in an election. With the "HDB upgrading" carrot dangled as a pricy stake for voters, PAP reversed its electoral decline for the first time in four GEs and since 1963 won back an opposition ward, recapturing the two new SDP seats it had lost the last GE. With Chiam's defection, SDP had no representation in Parliament since 1984. WP returned two MPs, Low Thia Khiang, now assistant secretary-general, and Jeyaretnam as a Non-Constituency MP, whose last presence in Parliament was in 1986. Tang fled Singapore after several lawsuits were filed against him by PM Goh, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, DPMs Lee Hsien Loong and Dr Tony Tan and several PAP MPs. In June 1997, when NMPs were re-appointed, the number was increased from six to nine.

8th Parliament dissolution: 16 December 1996 [Mon]
Nomination day: 23 December 1996 [Mon]
Polling day: 2 January 1997 [Thu]
9th Parliament convention: 26 May 1997 [Mon]

Electorate: 1,881,011
Walkover voters: 1,115,679 (59.3%)
Eligible voters: 765,332 (40.7%)
Voter turnout: 734,000 (95.9%)

Election deposit: $8,000 (+$2,000)

Single member constituencies Group representation constituencies
Ayer Rajah Aljunied GRC [5] Marine Parade GRC [6]
Boon Lay Ang Mo Kio GRC [5] Pasir Ris GRC [4]
Bukit Gombak Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC [5] Sembawang GRC [6]
Chua Chu Kang Bukit Timah GRC [5] Tampines GRC [4]
Hougang Cheng San GRC [5] Tanjong Pagar GRC [6]
Kampong Glam East Coast GRC [6] West Coast GRC [4]
MacPherson Hong Kah GRC [5]
Nee Soon Central Jalan Besar GRC [4]
Potong Pasir Kreta Ayer-Tanglin GRC [4]
Total seats = 83