Friday, April 30, 2010

GRC, NCMP vs Proportionate Representation

First of all, some of you may wonder if I have used the wrong phrase "proportionate representation" instead of "proportional representation". In most context in the world, people would tend to use "proportional representation" to describe the system of allocating seats to different political parties according to the percentage of votes they received in a general elections. There are quite a number of variations of such system.

However, in Singapore's context, there is one more function to be met as we are a multi-racial nation. "Proportionate Representation" would mean that we could achieve racial representation proportionately via the proportional representation system. This stands in contrast to the present GRC system that we have now.

I have just finished recording for CNA Talking Point program which will be aired on this coming Sunday (2 May 2010), 10pm. There are certain points which were brought up but some points missed due to the time constrains.

I shall explain my stand here with regards to the Press Release I wrote about the increase of NCMP seats.

I will start with the reasoning of PAP wanting to increase the number of NCMPs. It all started from one research paper done by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) right after GE 2006. There are a few key findings and one important finding is that younger voters (P65 voters) want fair fight. They are no longer interested in pork barrel politics of HDB upgrading. They want to see more diversity of voices in parliament.

Thus, you can see that PAP no longer depend on HDB upgrading as its key electioneering strategy. They want to address the higher demand of more opposition voices in parliament. Thus, they come up with this changes of increasing more NCMPs in parliament.

I am not against NCMP scheme as I have already stated that NCMPs would have been legitimate members of parliament EMPOWERED by the voters if they are elected under the proportional representation system. They should be conferred the FULL POWER of voting rights in parliament, in contrast to the present NCMP scheme whereby NCMPs cannot vote in Supply bills (i.e. Budget), constitutional changes as well as no-confidence motion.

The disproportionate number of opposition members in parliament as compared to the percentage of votes we get is due to the GRC system. Thus, the ROOT CAUSE is the GRC system, not the lack of NCMPs in parliament. (illustratin: for single seats, 2 out of 9 seats were won by opposition. This is about 22% of the seats. Although this is still 11% away from the national average votes, but it is much better than the GRC results whereby ZERO seats were won/allocated to opposition even though we have 33.3% of votes. Thus, the problem of dis-proportionality lies with GRC.)

My view is that PAP is just trying to pacify voters that even if they vote for PAP, they could still have opposition voices in parliament without the full voting power. This is at best, populist attempt to further their agenda of political hegemony. This is the fundamental reason why I am opposing the changes even though I am neutral about NCMP scheme, because it has a motive and agenda behind it.

Naturally, to solve the problem of dis-proportionality, we will have to deal with the root problem, GRC system. This is why I have proposed the proportionate representation system to be implemented on top of the GRC system.

The GRC system is unsustainable and unstable in the long run. I guess when MM Lee talked about having "freak elections results", he understood the risks of the present GRC system. It doesn't need "freak elections results" to illustrate the inherent problems of the GRC system. If PAP lost 40% of the seats or GRCs, it could still form the government. However, it would have lost 40% of its top political talents in the process. Thus, even if it is to form the next government, it would mean that it will have to appoint second rated MPs from its rank to fill the cabinet minister posts. Would that result be optimal? Paying top salaries for second rated ministers?

Someone pointed out to me that they could well appoint their ministers who have lost to be NMPs so that they could continue to be ministers. Wouldn't that make a mockery out of the whole political system?

If we implement proportional representation on top of the GRC system, top political talents from all political parties would have been elected as long as their parties could garner the minimum required support. Even if a coalition government is to be formed as the result of this proportionate representation system, the nation could be assured that the best people from the political parties would be in place to form the government.

Many people hold the view that coalition government is no good, it is weak and such. I would object to such over simplification. The most competitive country in the world, Finland, is governed by a coalition government. So does our once aspiring Switzerland. It has a coalition government which is termed as the most stable government in the world. Even country like New Zealand which only switch to proportional representation system late last century is coping with its new system. Most importantly, proportional representation will enhance the consultative process and build consensus. It will allow people to have more stake in what is taking place to their country.

While some PAP MPs would say that the proportional representation system or even the NCMP scheme would allow opposition "noise makers" to get into parliament too easily, I would say many of us could not bear with the many MPs in parliament who have always agree blindly for the sake of agreeing to walk into the parliament through the GRC system as well. It is a matter of relativity and ultimately, in the long run, voters are not daft. They will vote even more carefully for those who they think would contribute positively towards the political process.

I was asked on whether I will take up NCMP if I am granted one. My personal stand is, I will not take up any NCMP post in parliament if I am not granted FULL VOTING RIGHTS in parliament.

Having a voice in parliament is important, but more importantly, we need to have the right and power to register our views in terms of parliamentary vote. The present system doesn't fulfill this simple but yet important criteria. NCMP Sylvia Lim is against the increase of NCMP and NMP in parliament. But she cannot vote against it because as NCMP, she is deprived of the right to vote in constitutional changes. Mr. Alvin Yeo, who have spoken against the increase for a different reason, has to vote for it eventually, according to his party whip. Well, he did qualify that he agrees with some other changes mentioned in the bill but the point is, once the party whip is applied, no PAP MPs could vote against it without repercussions. There are very instances in history that PAP has not applied its party whip during all parliamentary voting.

Having said that, I would not object to any of my party colleagues to take up the NCMP posts if offered. This is because I also view NCMP as a transitional scheme towards the proportional/proportionate representation system that I am advocating.

This may sound contradicting at first but this is a matter of personal preference and principles that I hold. There are some merits in taking up NCMP posts but at the end of the day, what matters is to represent those who voted for us to register our views, voice and votes in parliament.

Goh Meng Seng

P.S. I shall talk more about the proportionate representation that I have in mind in another posting.

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