Friday, May 29, 2009

Singapore's electoral reform- Great but ...

Hi Friends,

The following letter was published in today's Straits Times Forum page.

Although some of the points seemed suspiciously similar to Sylvia's speech, please note that the letter was submittted on the night of 27th May but Sylvia spoke after that. Maybe we have telepathy?


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

The published letter (29.5.09) ST Forum

YESTERDAY'S report, 'Parliament to get more diverse voices', left me pleasantly surprised by the wide range of changes to the electoral system announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on Wednesday.

Although some may construe this as an ingenious gambit by the establishment to liberalise Singapore's political system with little risk to People's Action Party (PAP) dominance, the neutrals will deem it otherwise.

Most Singaporeans will see this as a magnanimous gesture by PM Lee to increase representation by non-PAP MPs to at least 10 per cent (nine opposition members), or 20 per cent if Nominated MPs are included.

This is a tacit recognition that we are all Singaporeans, whoever we vote for, and that a diversity of views is a strength and not a weakness.

To reduce scepticism further, I suggest the following:

  • Set up an independent Electoral Commission comprising prominent Singaporeans, because the electoral system must not only be fair but must also be seen to be fair.
  • Boundary changes should be made at least a year before any election to allow interested parties to work the ground.
  • Avoid sheltering new PAP candidates in group representation constituencies as the heat of electoral battle is a prerequisite for any politician. Those without the stomach for a contest may not have the right stuff sought by the electorate.
  • Instead of non-elected NMPs, consider substituting non-partisan independent candidates who are nominated by interest groups like the present six groups: business and industry; the professions; labour movement; social and community organisations; media, arts and sports; and tertiary education institutions; plus the newly mooted 'people sector'.
    Two to three prospective candidates from each group should be shortlisted by a panel and the nine independent candidates should seek the electorate's vote on polling day. Such a format is better than the present NMP scheme, which lacks the people's mandate.
  • Further liberalise the right of peaceful demonstration. We need more Singaporeans who are passionate about a wide range of issues and who are not afraid to show it.
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan


cf said...

(please forgive my loose structure and lack of due diligence)

with regard to constituency boundaries (determined by the electoral commission), consituencies are generally defined by population size and geography - at least this is what is claimed most often by most governments. i am in favor of a schedule for boundary revisions that is more consistent with how population growth is measured than with elections (that are called at the whim and fancy of the prime minister).

for example, if i am not mistaken, singapore does conduct census regularly in terms of 5, maybe 10-year intervals.

my real question here is, even if the electoral commission is in the prime minister's office, what is the rationale for having a schedule to redraw constituency boundaries that mirrors election cycles rather closely? has anyone brought this issue up at all before; if so, how was it resolved before; if not, why not?

nofearSingapore said...

Hi cf:
That is an excellent idea if not for the fact that census are taken not 5 yearly but more likely longer ( I think).
We understand the need for boundary changes ( tho I wonder if there is any system in the world without this), changing this just before polling day and suspicious changes as has happened before LHL's PM tenure where Braddell was joined to Marine Parade really was embarrassing and disgraceful! Anson wiped out! Eunos etc.
History wiped off our books!
Just as you and I are putting on our thinking caps, let's credit PM Lee for doing something different. I detest people who reject everything from PAP as "gifts from Greeks".

wheregotfree said...

well, hope more voices can be heard in future

Vietnam Traveler said...

hmm interesting to know, thanks for writing this article.

wheregotfree said...

nice share, thanks a lot