Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU
I’M INTRIGUED that the media has been reporting that the Workers’ Party may field one of their existing Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) as a candidate in the forthcoming by-election in Punggol East Single Member Constituency.
46(2A) A non-constituency Member of Parliament shall vacate his seat as such a Member if he is subsequently elected as a Member of Parliament for any constituency.
(2B) A nominated Member of Parliament shall vacate his seat as such a Member —
(a) if he stands as a candidate for any political party in an election; or
(b) if, not being a candidate referred to in paragraph (a), he is elected as a Member of Parliament for any constituency.
As you can see, under Article 46(2B)(a) a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is expressly required to vacate his or her seat in Parliament if he or she “stands as a candidate for any political party in an election”. On the other hand, Article 46(2A) merely requires an NCMP to vacate his or her seat if “subsequently elected as a Member of Parliament for any constituency” (emphasis added).
The difference in the wording of the two provisions is significant. It suggests that, unlike NMPs, NCMPs do not have to vacate their parliamentary seats to stand as a candidate for a political party in an election. Furthermore, the way Article 46(2A) is phrased suggests that if an NCMP participates in an election but is not subsequently elected, he or she does not have to vacate his or her seat.
I’m not sure this was the result the drafters of the clauses were aiming at, and wouldn’t be surprised to see an amendment to the Constitution after the by-election.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of Law who teaches and researches administrative and constitutional law at the School of Law, Singapore Management University.
1 See, for instance, Andrea Ong & Elgin Toh, “Gerald Giam the most likely choice”, The Straits Times (12 January 2013), p A12.
2 Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Rev Ed, 1999 Reprint).
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