Workers’ Party (WP) politician Yee Jenn Jong has asserted that the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) scheme, the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme and upgrading for votes are examples of ‘free riding’.
His comments come after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called voters who cast their ballots for the opposition while hoping that others would vote to keep the ruling party in power ‘free riders’, in his first debate speech in the 14th Parliament of Singapore earlier this month.
Mr Lee said: “If you say vote against the Government because somebody else will look after getting the PAP Government and you just become a free rider, and you vote opposition, no harm, the PAP will still be there, then I think the system must fail.
“Because the system can only work if people vote sincerely, honestly, in accordance with what they really want, and to produce the result, which matches their true intentions, and if they vote tactically, the consequences must be one day, they will get the result, which they mark the x for, but which they did not intend.”
He added that this was the wrong thing to “teach people.”
WP chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh challenged Mr Lee’s view and said: “I don’t think the residents of Aljunied, Hougang for 30 years now, and even Sengkang, as a result of the results of the last election, would appreciate being called free riders.”
Asserting that voters cast their ballots for the opposition because they “know an opposition in Parliament is ultimately good” for Singapore, Mr Pritam said: “We are not just doing nothing, having been voted in. We are not just letting the other guy, the government of the day, do something.
“We’ve got to do what we have to do, we got to run the town council which is why Mr Lee Kuan Yew conceived of the town councils in the first place. Because if you want to move forward in the system as an opposition member of parliament, you’ve got to prove your worth in the town council.”
Mr Lee acknowledged that Mr Pritam has a “desire to do right by Singapore” and said, “I think it is good for Singapore that you have honest people in the opposition, people who believe in what they are trying to do. People who will stand up and fight for their ideals and, from time to time, disagree very strongly with the government. I think that is entirely reasonable.”
Despite this, Mr Lee was firm in his view about free riders. Asserting that voters will end up with a government they do not want if everyone votes for the opposition thinking someone else will vote for the ruling party, he said:
“But if you say, vote for me, somebody else will vote for the PAP, and therefore the PAP will be the Government, that the economists will call a free rider. It means that you are taking advantage of somebody else who is doing their duty of electing a government for the nation.”
Mr Yee, a prominent member of the WP who contested the past three general elections, asserted that some of the schemes the Government has installed may give rise to ‘free riding’. He wrote on Facebook:
“PM Lee had said that the WP voters are ‘free riders’ – they vote for WP knowing that the PAP will form the government. Voters in opposition wards, whether in today’s Hougang, Aljunied and Sengkang, or in earlier times Potong Pasir and Anson, pay a heavy price for sticking their faith in the opposition.
“The PAP wants their vast supermajority, and even absolute monopoly in parliament. The NCMP and GRC schemes and upgrading for votes are some examples of how some MPs can take ‘free rides’.”
Pointing out how the GRC and NCMP schemes and the estate upgrading for votes could give rise to free riding, the opposition politician said: “The NCMP scheme is to tell voters they can have the ‘public goods’ of democracy yet still have the PAP run their constituency. Voters can then have their estate upgrading and still bring the opposition into parliament.
“In a GRC, strong candidates pull weaker ones into parliament (just think of Tharman anchoring Jurong).”
Calling on citizens to oppose free riding in politics, he added: “To correct ‘free riding’ problems in Economics, you may need some social pressure. Yes, please say “No” to free riding in politics. Have a fair democracy. Singapore belongs to Singaporeans.”
PM Lee had said that the WP voters are ‘free riders’ – they vote for WP knowing that the PAP will form the government….