GRC system – A flaw in our politics

By Maurice de Vaz

The stated objective of the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system is to ensure that a number of minority race are elected into Parliament as Members of Parliament (MPs). This, however, belies the fact that in the years before the GRC system was thrust upon us, Messrs Othman Wok, Barker, Rajaratnam, and many others, were elected on their own merits. More recently, in the 2011 election, Mr Palmer was elected in a Single Member Constituency (SMC).

Today, the notion that our current minority office holders like Messrs Shanmugaratnam, Yaacob Ibrahim, Halimah Yacob and many others may not be elected without the GRC system, defies logic. It also does not speak well of the ruling party’s confidence in them, or the good sense of the electorate.

The regularly stated rationale for the GRC system is therefore not valid. Instead, it masks over serious flaws and inequity in the system. The most obvious flaw is that it results in a number of MPs being elected on the coat tails of more senior, or more electable, candidates. This consequence tilts the election process heavily in favour of the ruling party, and results in they getting far more elected MPs than the voting ratios reflect. It also makes one wonder if the lesser lights in a GRC would get elected if they had to contest an SMC on their own?

From the voters’ perspective, the GRC system forces us to choose a slate of candidates even if we don’t know, or don’t wish to vote for, some of the members on that slate. In the end, the voter in a GRC is forced to vote for a party and not an individual MP. Wherein is the link between the voter and his elected representative?

After 50 years of nationhood, I believe the electorate is wise enough to choose all its representatives through SMCs, and the GRC system is a contrivance that should be scrapped. The electorate has come of age and through SMCs will vote into Parliament worthy representatives.

If, despite this, there is still a misplaced belief that dismantling the GRC system will not ensure appropriate minority representation in Parliament, this objective can still be met by designating as “minority wards” the same number of SMCs as there are GRCs today. In these “minority wards” only minority candidates can be fielded. This will ensure at least the same number of minority MPs in Parliament as there are today, but without the dubious need for GRCs. Of course, minority candidates can also be put up in other wards.

With no GRCs, every member elected to Parliament will be elected on his/her own steam. It also allows every voter to choose only the particular individual whom he feels can best represent his interests.


Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Scheme  

The stated objective of the NCMP scheme is to allow opposition members a voice in Parliament. The need to artificially inject opposition voices in Parliament is the result of the reduced opposition representation in Parliament brought about by the GRC system. Without GRCs, it is quite likely more opposition MPs will get elected and the opposition strength would more closely reflect the latest opposition vote of 30%.

The NCMP (and, for that matter, the NMP) scheme should therefore, be scrapped.

If, perchance, very few opposition MPs are elected, then that is the will of the electorate, and should be respected. After all, the electorate is, I believe, wise enough to know what it wants.

Parliament should only seat those elected to it. No one else.