Tagged: Non-constituency Member of Parliament

Textualism vs. Purposive Interpretation: Must an NCMP Seat Be Filled?

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

In a recent blogpost, Dr. Jack Lee argued that if an opposition candidate declines to take up an NCMP seat, the PAP-dominated government may not be obliged to offer that seat to the next eligible opposition candidate. This has thrown up a very interesting debate as to the legal obligations of Parliament to fill the NCMP seats. Besides Dr Jack Lee, Professor Thio Li-ann has also been reported as taking the position that there is no legal obligation on Parliament to offer the seat to the next eligible candidate. In contrast, Professor Kevin Tan argues that article 39 of the Constitution, read with section 52 of the Parliamentary Elections Act obliges Parliament to offer the seat. He is quoted as saying that “The seat cannot be left vacant. A combined reading of both provisions makes it clear that Parliament must have nine members who do not form the government.”

Parliament (Source: Singapore Parliament)

Parliament (Source: Singapore Parliament)

There are clearly good legal and policy arguments for and against imposing a legal obligation on Parliament to offer the seat to the next eligible opposition candidate where it had been previously declined. The disagreement stems from differing approaches to statutory and constitutional interpretation. Continue reading

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Updated: When an NCMP Seat is Turned Down

Sign in front of Parliament House, Singapore

Who will be the NCMPs in the 13th Parliament of Singapore? (By Smuconlaw [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

Read the 17 September 2015 update

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

AS THE DUST SETTLES after the 2015 general election (and I don’t just mean the haze), thoughts now turn to the filling of the Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seats in Parliament.

The issue remains relevant as the possibility that the Opposition would capture at least nine parliamentary seats, raised by Jaclyn Neo in a recent post, did not happen. Citizens returned the People’s Action Party (PAP) to power with an increased vote share of 69.9% based on the votes cast in Singapore.

Continue reading

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

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

Low Thia Khiang as a Candidate for By-election in Hougang?

Low Thia Khiang at a Workers' Party general election rally, Bedok Stadium, Singapore

Workers’ Party Secretary-General and Aljunied GRC MP Low Thia Khiang at an election rally in Bedok Stadium, 30 April 2011. (Photograph by NewNation.sg [CC-BY-2.0], via the Wikimedia Commons.)

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

IT HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED that nomination day for the by-election in Hougang Single Member Constituency will be on 16 May 2012, and if there is a contested election, polling day will be on 26 May. This ten-day period is the shortest permitted by the Parliamentary Elections Act (‘PEA’),[1] and means a nine-day campaigning period (no campaigning may take place on ‘cooling-off day’, the eve of polling day).

The Workers’ Party has confirmed it will be seeking to hold on to this constituency that it won in the 2011 general election. Since the National Solidarity Party, Singapore Democratic Party and Singapore People’s Party have said they do not intend to take part, attention turns to the identity of the candidate that the WP will field against the People’s Action Party‘s candidate. Continue reading

A Legal Backgrounder on By-elections

Yaw Shin Leong, 5 May 2011

Yaw Shin Leong at a Workers’ Party rally for the 2011 general election, 5 May 2011. (By Huaiwei. CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), via Wikimedia Commons.)

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

THE EXPULSION of Yaw Shin Leong, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC), from the Workers’ Party has once again thrust the issue of the Government’s policy on by-elections into the limelight. This was last discussed in Parliament in August 2008 following the death of Dr Ong Chit Chung, MP for Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

Article 46 of the Constitution provides that when MPs are ousted from the political parties they stood for in an election, their seats are vacated. Parliament has final say on the matter. On 22 February, Mr Michael Palmer, the Speaker of Parliament, announced that since Mr Yaw had indicated he does not wish to challenge his expulsion, his seat became vacant on 14 February.

During the Parliamentary debate four years ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the constitutional provision – often known as the “anti-hopping” clause – ensured a stable government. He recalled the tumultuous years in the Legislative Assembly – the predecessor to Singapore’s post-independence Parliament. In 1961, 13 People’s Action Party MPs were able to leave their party and cross the floor, decimating the Government’s majority. Continue reading