The Group Representation Constituency (GRC) scheme hinders political competition, fortifies the incumbents and works against democracy, and as such should be abolished in favour of a scheme that genuinely allows for Parliamentary representation by candidates of a minority race, says the National Solidarity Party (NSP).
At a media conference yesterday, NSP outlined its proposal for electoral reform, where it cited an earlier proposal made to Parliament in 1988 to have a Constituency Reserved for Minority (CRM) scheme.
The CRM scheme was rejected by Parliament, in favour of the GRC scheme which was implemented in 1987.
The NSP cited two objections then raised for the CRM scheme, which it now felt contained "fallacious reasoning".
The first was the argument that the reserved constituency will have no choice but to accept only Malay candidates, which will lead to unhappiness among non-minority groups i nthe constituency.
NSP identified this to be false, as GRC residents may not be served by an MP of their choice. "As this “detriment” is also being experienced by GRC residents, the GRC scheme would not be superior to the CRM proposal in this respect."
The second objection from the government then was that, while constituencies under the CRM scheme can be rotated to ensure that other constituencies have to opportunity to be served by a minority MP, "they will not be able to build any lasting relationship of trust and confidence."
However, NSP suggested that this concern for lasting relationships really did nothing more than ensure the incumbent's chances of getting re-elected. "Once an MP is elected, his duty is to serve his constituents for the duration of his term. How would the prospect that he might not be re-elected to the same constituency affect his ability to build a relationship of trust and confidence during his term?"
Furthermore, NSP indicated that there was nothing stopping a minority candidate from seeking re-election in the same ward.
NSP then questioned the appropriateness of the GRC scheme. While the purpose of the GRC scheme was meant to "guarantee a minimum representation of minorities in Parliament" for racial and religious fairness, it cited instances where changes to the numbers of GRCs and the number of Malay candidates to be fielded seemed to have been randomly decided on, which the government did not properly justify.
The party also argued that the GRC scheme does not ensure proportional minority representation.
"Legal provisions governing the GRC scheme mandate that at least one-quarter (1/4) of the candidates must be returned from GRCs and that at least three-fifths (3/5) of all GRCs must include a Malay candidate." However, this situation only shows that "Malays, which comprise 13% of resident population, are only guaranteed roughly 5.7% of the Parliamentary seats under the GRC scheme."
NSP also cited other inadequacies of the GRC scheme, such as citizens not being served by a specific MP of their choice, the greater load required by GRC MPs should one of their team members be unable to perform his duties as by-elections are not required for GRCs, and that it adulterates the one-man-one-vote system.
In addition, NSP also cited issues such as higher electoral deposits, arbitrary increases in GRC sizes, the unchallenged subsuming of Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) into GRCs, and greenhorn PAP candidates to ride on the coat-tails of heavy weight PAP candidates to enter the House. These issues were often citied as being unfair to opposition party politicians.
NSP believes that the CRM scheme will equally ensure minority representation in Parliament, while also removing many of the identified problems with the GRC scheme. One of the key tenets is that a minority candidate will be able to serve residents as well as a non-minority candidate, regardless of whether in a single or group ward. In addition, Singaporeans in today's social-political climate are less likely to vote along racial lines.
"The GRC scheme should be abolished because it does not serve Singaporeans well. The CRM scheme will ensure a multi-racial Parliament, but without exacting the heavy price on democracy as the GRC scheme does."
NSP member Ravi Philemon also addressed accusations that the proposal for implementing CRM scheme would lead to the formation of racial segregation when residents deliberately move to other constituencies with their preferred race of MPs.
"With 85% of the population living in HDB flats, and there being an Ethnic Integration Policy in place which prevents racial segregation, I wonder how this is even possible," he wrote in his Facebook page. "NSP had addressed this and other such concerns in our Paper."
Full report by the National Solidarity Party on "Electoral Reform Proposal – Constituency Reserved for Minority Scheme"