Category: Legislature

Towards True Political Pluralism: Whither the NCMP scheme?

Dr Jaclyn L Neo
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

Today, 11 September 2015, Singaporeans go to the poll. For the first time since its independence in 1965, every (elected) parliamentary seat is being contested. A total of nine political parties are contesting in this year’s general elections. Among the questions about the anticipated outcomes is whether there will be any Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) in the new Parliament. The NCMP scheme was introduced in 1984. It allocates parliamentary seats to opposition candidates who have obtained the highest number of votes but did not win any seats in any constituency. Article 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore states that apart from elected Members and nominated Members, Parliament shall consist of members “known as non-constituency Members, as the Legislature may provide in any law relating to Parliamentary elections to ensure the representation in Parliament of a minimum number of Members from a political party or parties not forming the Government”. Continue reading

Online Election-time Engagement Tricky as Ever

Wait, are you sure you can post that?

Wait, are you sure you can post that? (By María Tobías [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

IT’S BEEN INTERESTING to see that a post I made in 2012 at the time of the Hougang by-election has been seeing a surge of visits, as people try to figure out what they can or can’t post on cooling-off day and polling day of the 2015 general election (10 and 11 September).

The law hasn’t changed since then, so what I said in that post still applies today. This means online election-time engagement still remains a tricky issue for many.

Continue reading

Should Constitutional Principles be Eternal?

Parliament House, Singapore

Parliament House, Singapore. (By Smuconlaw, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via the Wikimedia Commons.) Are there constitutional principles that are eternal, or should Parliament be able to amend all parts of the Constitution?

Jaclyn L Neo
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

IS THERE ANY part of the current constitutional order that can never be changed? More specifically, can an institution entrenched in the Constitution be eternal and unalterable under any condition?

These are questions raised in the article by senior law correspondent K. C. Vijayan (“Ending elected presidency may not work“; Sept 11).

Mr Vijayan cites a Law Gazette article arguing that the basic structure doctrine has been recognised in Singapore. Continue reading

Hougang By-election Case: What Court Decision on By-election Reveals

A poll card issued for the 2011 general election

A poll card issued for the 2011 general election. (Photograph by Jacklee [public domain or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

THE COURT OF APPEAL’S judgment of 5 July in Vellama d/o Marie Muthu v Attorney-General[1] – popularly known as the Hougang by-election case – shows that the Court sees its role as policing the margins rather than involving itself in the heart of politics.

The decision came as a surprise to those used to a judicial stance that is fairly deferential towards the Government. It is one of only a handful of cases in which the courts have not accepted the Government’s interpretation of the Constitution.

Continue reading

NCMPs as Punggol East By-election Candidates

Gerald Giam photographed in April 2011

Workers’ Party NCMP Gerald Giam in April 2011. Will the opposition parties field one of their NCMPs as a candidate in the forthcoming by-election? (Photograph by NewNation.sg. [CC-BY-2.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

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.[1]

This possibility, which I have previously blogged about, arises because of the way Articles 46(2A) and 46(2B) of the Constitution[2] are drafted. These provisions state:

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.

Continue reading

Shock Resignation of Speaker Michael Palmer – Another By-election in the Offing?

Parliament House photographed in August 2010

Parliament House, Singapore, photographed in August 2010. (Photograph by Smuconlaw [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

THE SHOCK RESIGNATION of Michael Palmer as Speaker of Parliament, Member of Parliament for Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC), and member of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) due to a personal indiscretion has once again raised the intriguing possibility that a by-election may be called.

Things would have been different if Punggol East had been a Group Representation Constituency (GRC). No by-election may be called in a GRC unless all the MPs representing that constituency vacate their seats.[1]

Continue reading

What Can You Say on Cooling-off Day?

Antoine-Augustin Préault, Le Silence (19th century)

Ssssh! French sculptor Antoine-Augustin Préault‘s 19th-century work, Le Silence. (Photograph by Electron [public domain], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law, SMU

UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN living under a rock for the past two weeks, you’ll know that polling day for the by-election in Hougang Single Member Constituency is tomorrow, 26 May. This makes today “cooling-off day”, when no active election campaigning is permitted by law.

At 12:46 am today, one of my Facebook friends posted a hyperlink to a speech by Workers’ Party candidate Png Eng Huat delivered at the Party’s last rally before cooling-off day. The person added a comment to the effect that the article was worth reading, but that he would not quote any portions of it due to cooling-off-day restrictions.

Subsequently, another person posted a comment on the contents of the speech. The original poster then responded that that person might wish to delete the comment in view of cooling-off-day restrictions. Then ensued a discussion about what the law permits or disallows.

That got me thinking about the issue. Continue reading