Red Dot United is calling for a by-election after Senior Minister (SM) Tharman Shanmugaratnam resigned from the People’s Action Party (PAP).
And no, Red Dot United is not a soccer team. It’s an opposition political party.
Opposition Party Red Dot United Calls for Jurong GRC By-Election After SM Tharman’s Resignation
On Thursday (8 June), the opposition party Red Dot United (RDU) issued a statement in light of SM Tharman’s resignation from the PAP to run for President, which, unless you live under a rock, would have heard of.
SM Tharman’s resignation means a spot in his Group Representation Constituency (GRC), Jurong GRC, has been freed up. As a result, RDU is now calling for a by-election at Jurong GRC.
At this point, you might scoff at the idea of a by-election. You might even think that in the event of a by-election, PAP could send even Ivan Lim to hustle the spot from RDU.
Yet, before all that, a broader problem arises: Should by-elections even be called in the first place?
The opposition party’s statement emphasised the need for the hole left in Jurong GRC to be filled after SM Tharman’s step down. This is especially given that SM Tharman is the minority MP for Jurong GRC.
Quick crash course on the GRC system if you didn’t listen in school: each GRC team must have at least one member from a minority community to ensure representation of minority communities in Parliament.
Currently, the other Members of Parliament (MPs) representing Jurong GRC are Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Law Rahayu Mahzam, Dr Tan Wu Meng, Mr Xie Yao Quan and Mr Shawn Huang.
If by-elections are not called to fill SM Tharman’s spot, “the government risks diluting the representation of that community in Parliament,” RDU’s secretary-general Ravi Philemon said.
No Requirement to Call By-Election When MP in GRC Steps Down
While RDU’s calls for a by-election are understandable, the reality is this: it most likely won’t happen.
Or, as your mother would say, “Wait long long”.
There is no requirement for the gahmen to call for a by-election in light of an MP’s step down from a GRC. And yes, that is even if the MP is a minority.
You might recall that back in 2017, when our current President, Mdm Halimah Yacob, stepped down as MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC to run for President, no by-elections were called as well.
The government’s non-obligation to call for such by-elections has been reiterated time and again, probably so much that even gahmen also dulan already.
It’s like if the auntie at the drinks store asks you to repeat your kopi peng order ten times.
In April 2019, it was also confirmed by the Singapore Courts that unlike a Single-Member Constituency (SMC) where there’s only one spot to free up, by-elections need not be called when a single spot frees up in a GRC.
Only if all other MPs in the GRC resign must by-elections be called.
Mr Philemon acknowledges the above in the opposition party’s statement. Regardless, RDU urges by-elections to be called anyway, emphasising that doing so was integral to “preserve minority representation and prevent the abuse of the system”.
What’s Next for Jurong GRC in Light of SM Tharman’s Resignation to Run for President?
Instead of a by-election, here’s what’s likely to happen to Jurong GRC in light of SM Tharman’s resignation.
You’ll probably see the smiles fade away from the faces of Jurong GRC residents as the reality of their favourite MP’s resignation sets in. The sun will stop shining on Jurong, and the kopi peng now tastes slightly more bitter.
All jokes aside, not much is likely to change in Jurong GRC after SM Tharman’s resignation.
The Meet-the-People sessions in Taman Jurong, SM Tharman’s ward, will go on as usual. However, Taman Jurong residents can expect to see Mr Huang instead of SM Tharman at these sessions.
Other events and meetings with residents organised by Jurong GRC will also be covered by the other MPs in the GRC.
So, if you’re a resident in Jurong GRC who needs an MP to write to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) about your passport renewal, don’t worry. There’ll still be an MP there to write your letter despite SM Tharman’s step down.
As for who will eventually fill SM Tharman’s spot in Jurong GRC for the next general election, we’ll have to wait and see.
After all, these are big shoes to fill.
SM Tharman Resigns From PAP to Run for President
If you didn’t know that SM Tharman was resigning, we suggest you stop following the Jocelyn Chia saga excessively and read other news.
Regardless, here’s a quick summary of SM Tharman’s resignation from PAP, which was what triggered RDU to release their statement in the first place.
In late May, our current President, Mdm Halimah Yacob, announced that she would not be running for re-election.
After six long years, Madam President can finally pang gang on 13 September. This means someone else has to do the presidential sai gang.
And we’re guessing it’s likely to be SM Tharman.
This week, SM Tharman announced his intention to run for President. Since the President cannot be part of any political party, SM Tharman also announced his resignation from PAP.
The politician will also be stepping down from his other posts, including as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and the Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
SM Tharman will officially step down on 7 July. Afterwards, for a while at least, he’ll become “that unemployed friend on a Tuesday”.
PM Lee has also since accepted SM Tharman’s resignation and thanked the SM for his service to the nation.
You can find out more about SM Tharman’s resignation here.
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