SDP: Reform, not adjust, the election system

The Singapore Democratic Party has issued its statement in response to the proposed changes to the electoral system made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament today (27 January).

In its statement signed off by SDP’s Secretary General, Dr Chee Soon Juan, the party commented that the electoral system is not for the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP) to tweak and adjust.

PM Lee had proposed amendments in the parliament on Wednesday to the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, having the current 9 guaranteed seats increased to 12 and to give voting rights to the NCMPs. PM Lee also proposed to have the GRCs to be reduced in size to create more SMCs. There is also a review on the Elected Presidency by a Constitutional Commission, chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon to look at how minority races can be elected periodically.

SDP wrote that the proposals by PM Lee serve only to distract the people from the real problems regarding elections in Singapore and said that a democratic election system requires a free media, freedom of speech and assembly, and a transparent electoral process.

The party then listed out necessary measures that should be implemented if the ruling party is genuinely interested in reforming the political system

Below are the measures recommended by SDP

  1. Amend the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act and the Broadcasting Act. Without a free and open media, the electorate cannot make an informed choice. The control of the media by the PAP is what has kept it in power all these decades. In a democracy, debate and discussion in the media should not be confined to the nine days during the elections.
  2. Abolish the GRC system. The GRC system has enabled the PAP to draw constituency boundaries to its advantage and to disproportionately dominate Parliament in number.
  3. Repeal the Public Order Act. Under this Act, the police are empowered to stop the opposition from speaking and meeting freely with the people whereas PAP MPs have unencumbered access to the electorate.
  4. Lengthen the campaign period. The election period should be lengthened to at least three weeks. The short campaign period makes it unnecessarily difficult for the opposition to mount a meaningful campaign.
  5. Remove the Elections Department from the control of the PMO. A genuinely free and fair elections can come about only if there is an independent body to conduct and monitor elections.