Singapore — Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) research associate Dr Teo Kay Key and associate professor Dr Tan Ern Ser commented on the relevance of the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme after this 2020 General Election.
After the General Elections, 10 opposition MPs from the Workers’ Party (WP) entered in the 14th Parliament, with two NCMP seats going to Hazel Poa and Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP).
The IPS article mentioned that if Poa and Leong performed well in their NCMP roles, there would be a “good chance of them becoming elected MPs and their party making more inroads in future elections”, which according to Dr Tan and Dr Teo, may “sound the death knell of the NCMP scheme”.
The article claims that any expansion of the NCMP roles to be equal to that of Member of Parliaments (MP) would “render elections quite meaningless” as the elections are meant to give a choice to voters of who they want to represent them in Parliament and run their town council.
With only 12 opposition seats, Dr Tan and Dr Teo stated that the numbers are “insufficient to have a numerical impact on the official decision-making process” as “vetoing Constitutional changes require over one-third –32 MPs — to vote against a motion.”
“Twelve opposition MPs would, therefore, have no effect on parliamentary decisions as long as the PAP’s party whip is in place,” stated the article. It also stated that one of the ways to “foster meaningful opposition representation” would be to increase the number to be at least one-third of the total parliamentary seats. However, Dr Tan and Dr Teo are sceptical that this would happen and that it also “may not necessarily benefit the opposition” if it results in a majority of NCMPs occupying the opposition seats. Having more opposition as NCMPs would thus “reduce the opposition’s legitimacy, a claim it has levied before against the scheme” and may also “prevent the opposition from establishing a more solid foothold or permanency in Parliament, and in turn preserve a one party-dominant government”.
The article also talks about how previous NCMPs from the opposition have benefitted from this scheme through having the “opportunity to weigh in on government policies and Bills before they are implemented”. Similarly, WP candidates have also mentioned their speeches made in Parliament which shows how they have had the chance to voice out their points.
However, as “opposition parties continue to grow and be seen as credible alternatives”, Dr Tan and Dr Teo feel that they may not need “alternative routes” in order to enter Parliament.
“Whatever the future may be for the scheme, it has been and should continue to be guided by one ultimate purpose – to create a desirable political landscape for Singapore where a diversity of views can flourish and be debated, yet not be divisive.” -/TISG