By Chris Kuan
The performance of the Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) in the Administration of Justice bill bring to mind that earlier this year, opposition leader Low Thia Khiang said Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) are “duckweeds” – a flora metaphor that describes NCMP as not having roots, unlike elected MPs who have a constituency in which to keep in close touch with residents, and can sink roots there.
I thought he was both right and wrong.
First wrong because going by his metaphor proportionate representation favoured by many who see it as a fairer system to reflect the size of the opposition popular vote, produces MPs who are “duckweeds” since there are seats allocated by popular or “best loser” vote rather than constituency majority vote. So in effect Mr Low thinks a very large number of Members of Parliament (MPs) in Europe (and Japan) are “duckweeds”.
Right because as the philosopher Sir Karl Popper asserted proportionate representation tends to produce MPs who serve the party (since they are chosen from party lists) rather than the constituents and the system tends to produce a lot of small parties who can hold a coalition government hostage – hence the minority had disproportionately more power than the majority.
But given the sheer unfairness of our electoral system due to the Group Representative Constituencies (GRCs), Sir Karl’s extremely valid objections remains a philosophical one as long as the number of opposition seats poorly reflect the size of the opposition popular vote. Given that NCMPs have full voting rights as MPs, having more NCMPs selected from the size of the opposition popular vote, “duckweeds” or not, provide a much better balance.
The 9 NMP seats should be removed. Their performance in Parliament clearly demonstrated by the passage of the Administration of Justice Bill, shows that they are not just “duckweeds” but plastic, decorative flowers.
Convert the NMP seats to NCMP seats and combine with the 3 existing NCMP seats to allocate a total of 12 seats without the present caps on the basis of opposition popular vote. This would not change much given the preponderance of People’s Action Party’s MPs but at least it is a fairer representation of national vote and it will raise the level of debate in Parliament.