The 2020 general election is coming up, and it feels like you’re back at school trying to cram as much information in your head before the day of your exam.
MP, GE, NCMP, GRC, OOTD, SMH, LMAO – what do all these initialisms mean?
It’s certainly important to have all the information necessary before you cast your ballots in 8 days’ time.
You might have heard the People’s Action Party (PAP) and opposition parties debate the merit of the NCMP scheme in the last few weeks, but you have no idea what the scheme is about.
Well, that’s why we’re here.
Here are 10 facts about the NCMP scheme:
1. It Was Introduced in 1984
The Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme was introduced in 1984, to ensure that opposition voices would be heard in Parliament, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said.
At that time, the PAP had won all the seats in Parliament for the first four elections since Independence.
The scheme proposed a minimum of three opposition MPs in Parliament, including NCMPs, so even if the opposition parties didn’t win any seats, three of their candidates would be allowed in parliament.
According to Singapore Infopedia, it was also introduced to provide training for younger PAP ministers and MPs by helping to sharpen their debating skills.
2. It Will Never Have PAP Members
Since the scheme was introduced because there was a lack of representation from opposition parties in parliament, NCMPs are always members of the opposition parties who did not manage to win in the general elections.
In other words, they’re the ‘best losers’, as some have called them.
According to AsiaOne, NCMP seats are typically offered to losing candidates with the highest percentage of votes among the losers at the general election.
If this happens to be a GRC, then the group can nominate one of its members to take the NCMP seat or seats.
3. The First NCMP Seat Was Never Filled
In the 1984 general election, the first held after the NCMP scheme was introduced, MPs J. B. Jeyaretnam of the Worker’s Party (WP) and Chiam See Tong of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) were elected to parliament, which meant that there was one NCMP seat up for grabs.
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But no one wanted it.
It was offered to WP’s M. D. P. Nair, but the WP decided that its defeated candidates should not take up NCMP seats.
The NCMP seat was then allocated to Tan Chee Kien of the Singapore United Front, but his party also decided to reject the seat, so no one ended up taking the seat.
4. The Number of NCMPs in Parliament Will Increase
When it was first introduced, the NCMP scheme allotted three seats to opposition party members.
This was increased to 9 in 2010 and 12 in 2016.
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So, in the event that the ruling PAP wins all the seats, there will still be a minimum of 12 opposition party members in parliament, except that they’ll be NCMPs instead of MPs.
Also, only a maximum of two NCMPs from one GRC is allowed, and there can be no more than one NCMP from an SMC.
5. NCMPs Now Have the Same Voting Rights as MPs
For the first time since its inception, NCMPs will have the same voting rights as MPs in parliament, due to amendments made to the scheme in 2016.
Before that, NCMPs had limited voting rights and were not allowed to vote on the following issues:
- Amendments to the Constitution
- Supply and money bills
- A motion of no confidence in the Government
- Removal of the President from office
6. Independent Candidates Cannot Be NCMPs
Shirwin Eu and Ooi Boon Ewe might view the NCMP scheme as a back door into parliament, but, unfortunately for them, independent candidates will not be offered NCMP seats.
Plus, you know, you have to be nominated first.
According to Singapore Infopedia, NCMP candidates must be a member of a political party and should receive at least 15% of the votes in their respective constituency.
This means that Cheang Peng Wah, the only independent candidate in GE2020, will not be offered an NCMP seat if he loses.
7. Some Claim it Undermines Opposition Parties
When it was first offered to an opposition party member in 1984 – WP’s M. D. P. Nair – WP’s secretary-general Jeyaretnam rejected it because he believed it dissuaded people from voting for the opposition, which was “the antithesis of what Parliament is”.
Progress Singapore Party (PSP) secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock recently called the scheme a “ploy” to entice voters from opposition parties, saying he would decline the seat if offered.
Similarly, WP criticised the scheme, calling it a “poisoned chalice”.
Dennis Tan from the WP said that the NCMP scheme was to make sure that “no other party can lay roots into each constituency”.
Their point is this: why should electors vote for the opposition party candidate when they are guaranteed a spot in parliament?
Former WP chief Low Thia Khiang amusingly called it “duckweed on the water of the pond”, saying that“opposition members are deemed as valuable only in relation to the training they give the PAP ministers and MPs”.
8. NCMPs Do Not Represent Any Specific Constituency
One of the criticisms of the NCMP scheme is that NCMPs do not represent any specific constituency.
Consequently, they do not have a physical base to organize activities or dialogues with residents.
As PSP chief Dr Tan said: “I know they (PAP) changed the rules and all the NCMPs actually behave like MPs in the House. But there’s one element missing – there’s no ground for him”.
“For us to be able to be a good opposition, we must always have some home or ground”, he said.
WP candidate Dennis Tan also pointed out that PAP candidates who lose an election still have access to premises like residents’ committees and can conduct Meet-the-People sessions, while NCMPs have little access to PAP constituencies, reported CNA.
9. NCMPs Earn 15% of MPs Annual Salary
This is why some NCMPs have worked day jobs while attending parliament sittings.
WP’s Lee Li Lian declined the NCMP seat in the 2015 general election because she said it wouldn’t be possible to be a full-time NCMP and that it’d be unfair to her employers if she had to take leave for parliamentary sittings every month.
10. Only One NCMP Has Ever Become an Elected MP
Some claim that the NCMP scheme is, in essence, undemocratic because it allows politicians who were not elected by the people into parliament.
There is, however, one NCMP who went on to become an elected MP.
In the 2006 general election, since WP lost to PAP in Aljunied GRC and received 43.9% of the votes, they were entitled to one NCMP seat.
WP nominated Sylvia Lim, and she served as an NCMP from 2006 to 2011.
She was later elected as an MP in the 2011 general election after WP’s historic win over the PAP.
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