I notice that some commentators have argued that the increase of NCMP seats is an important factor in the elections. Here. One of them is Asst Prof Eugene Tan from SMU. I don’t know why it SHOULD matter at all. To me, they are barking at the wrong tree.
Opposition candidates enter the contest to be elected as MPs, not become NCMPs. I don’t see how an increase in NCMP seats would lead to higher stakes for the opposition parties. They enter the competition to win via the first-past-the-post system (FPP) – even a marginal victory of 0.1 percent over their rivals means they would become elected MPs. In a system with proportionate representation (PR), then it’d be more logical to believe that the stakes have increased. A party which garners more votes than others would have more MPs, giving it more political power. Even a small party receiving 20 percent of the votes can have MPs. In Singapore’s FPP system, it’s more of a zero-sum game. Hence opposition candidates fight to WIN, not over NCMP seats which are handed out AFTER the elections.
Furthermore, increasing the number of NCMP seats is not significant. The reason why there are NCMP seats in the first place is because there are insufficient opposition MPs – so that means the PAP already has a super-majority, and it doesn’t have to fear the opposition. That said, more NCMPs in Parliament means more questions would be raised, there would be more debate and greater pressure on both the PAP ministers and backbench. But in terms of amending the constitution or voting for a motion of no confidence in the govt, NCMPs have no rights. Under a PR system, all MPs, regardless of the percentage of votes his party receives, would have equal voting rights. But S’pore’s FPP system only recognises winners and losers, so NCMPs are 2nd-class MPs.
Even if they are 2nd-class, they still represent those who vote for them. I think I read before on the newspapers, that a resident in Potong Pasir ranted something like this: “Some of us voted for the PAP! They should take care of those who voted for them too!” Lol, I rolled my eyes after reading his comment. What about the 46 percent of Aljunied GRC residents who voted for the WP? They have only one NCMP representing them. Though NCMP means ‘Non-Constituency Member of Parliament”, it is still a token effort which allows losing opposition candidates to ‘represent’ the wards which they lost. Of course, this is far from the PR system which would allow fairer representation (but not a strong govt, according to PM Lee).
The WP has been accused of falling into the ‘NCMP trap’ by sending its candidates into 3-cornered fights. Well, that seems a lame complaint by other opposition parties, which simply fear a greater loss for them because 1) they realistically know they can’t win and 2) they hope to score enough to become NCMPs. Come on, if these people know they stand a good chance of winning, they wouldn’t be afraid of competition. Since S’pore has a FPP system, it is not required to have a majority to win i.e. in XXX GRC, the WP could score 30 percent, the other party could have 40 and the remaining 30 from the PAP. Lol, I know it’s unlikely, and the probable scenario is that the PAP might have 60, the WP 30, and the other party 10 – losing its electoral deposits in the process.
Too bad for the opposition party – but the voter still benefits, if such a scenario happens. That means he’s interested in WP and its policies. If nation-wide, the WP emerges second in all wards, that would be a great step for voters to have an alternative and effective choice. That doesn’t mean the 3rd, 4th or 5th parties are condemned. They just have to work harder to overtake the WP 😉
Lastly, NCMPs hardly provide any incentives. How is the opposition candidate to know he’d be one of the top 9 best losers? He might guess, but he won’t know for certain. And being a NCMP with its greater exposure has not brought benefits – yet. In the past two decades, no NCMP has crossed over to become an elected MP.
Hence I don’t know why commentators are saying NCMPs have raised the stakes or whatever. In S’pore’s FPP system, they are probably not important factors in an electoral strategy.