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Red Dot United calls for by-election following Tharman’s announcement of resignation: Questions integrity of GRC system

The Secretary-General of the Red Dot United political party, Ravi Philemon, issued a statement today regarding the announcement of Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s intention to run in the upcoming Presidential Elections and his consequent resignation from the People’s Action Party (PAP).

This development follows Singapore President Halimah Yacob’s announcement that she will not seek re-election in the upcoming Presidential Election.

Mr Philemon, on behalf of Red Dot United, raised concerns about the implications of Mr Tharman’s resignation on the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system in Singapore. RDU received 31,260 votes in Jurong GRC, where they contested for the first time in General Election 2020.

Established in 1988, the GRC system aims to ensure diverse and inclusive representation in Parliament, mandating that GRC teams comprise at least one member from a minority community.

Mr Tharman’s situation is somewhat similar to Mdm Halimah’s previous resignation from PAP to run for the presidency, as Jurong GRC appears to still have Rahayu Mahzam as a minority in the GRC team.

However, according to TOC’s understanding from Mr Philemon, who was the minority candidate in Jurong GRC during GE2020, the minority candidacy is Indian for the GRC.

The RDU Secretary-General suggested that Shanmugaratnam’s departure as a minority MP from Jurong GRC could potentially undermine the integrity of the GRC system. The move has prompted the party to call for a by-election in Jurong to ensure continued minority representation.

Mr Philemon went on to challenge the government’s decision-making authority over the number of GRCs in each election. He questioned the system’s purpose if a minority MP could be removed at will post-election, potentially diluting the representation of minority communities in Parliament.

The RDU statement referenced a 2019 ruling by Singapore’s Apex Court on a similar issue. The court ruled that the government was not obligated to call a by-election when a single vacancy arises in a GRC, as opposed to a Single-Member Constituency (SMC).

Article 46(2) of the Constitution defines the circumstances under which a seat becomes vacant – none of which apply to the remaining MPs in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, which Mdm Halimah exited from.

Nevertheless, Mr Philemon asserted that the PAP should uphold the rule of law and call a by-election if they decide to vacate an elected Parliamentary seat.

“This is particularly crucial to preserve minority representation and prevent the abuse of the system for strategic electoral gains, as it would undermine the integrity of the electoral process and diminish the significance of general elections,” wrote Mr Philemon.

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