“The NCMP has no political muscle”, says Low Thia Khiang, the Secretary General of the Worker’s Party. “…unlike elected MPs where you have a constituency, you run a Town Council, you are in close touch with your residents, and you can sink roots there. NCMPs, make no mistake about it, are not elected MPs. They may be given the same voting rights in Parliament, but that only pertains to Parliament.”
This is all rhetorical nonsense.
It is not the job of Parliament to confer you “political muscle”. You enter Parliament only because you’ve proven yourself strong enough to win the mandate of the people.
You become a Non Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) because you have won second place in the contest and the electorate thinks that you’re strong enough to be a voice to represent them.
With the Constitutional change, NCMPs are going to have equal voting rights and have the same amount of power as a regular Member of Parliament. Whether or not the Member wants to be engaged in the constituency is the Party’s choice and a separate matter altogether. The Party does not even need to win an election to be active in the ward, serving and talking to people.
The Worker’s Party has been very active on the ground prior to GE2015 and as such, we must dismiss Low’s comments (about the inability to connect with and serve residents) accordingly.
They have also gone on to criticise the NCMP scheme as being undemocratic.
What is “democracy”? Is it not about a balance of powers? Is it not about legitimacy? Is it not about keeping the fused legislative/executive powers in check? Is it not about acknowledging the people’s choice of representation?
The NCMP position fulfils all these aspects of Parliamentary democracy. It goes even further because the ruling party fears that a legislature dominated by one political party is unhealthy. Hence, it has created positions and powers in the form of NMPs and NCMPs to bring in people from the Opposition and civil society to fill these democratic gaps.
How is this not democratic?
NCMPs will soon be given the same voting powers. The position has equal airtime. It can propose new Bills. It can speak against and question the Executive. They may not have enough Members to strike down a Bill or amend a law, but that sort of power require them to win the seats on their own. In fact, the only real difference between an NCMP and an MP… is the monthly allowance. An MP receives $15k and an NCMP, about $2500.
Do you know what is not democratic?
It is the unwillingness to serve as Member even though you’ve won the position. It is asking for your seat to be filled by a person who was not even chosen to be second place in an election. The democratic procedure for a vacant MP seat is a by-election, why should a vacant NCMP seat be any less rigorous?
How can the Worker’s Party ask for a swap for Lee Li Lian with Daniel Goh at their whim and fancy? Make no mistake – that kind of act is truly undemocratic.
Low Thia Khiang had put forth in Parliament today (29th January, 5.30pm) that the Worker’s Party position would be “…if one member is unable to take up the seat, it is my duty to nominate the next best volunteer.”
The Secretary General of a political party asks for the sacred position of a Parliament seat to be fulfilled by a “next best volunteer”. I wonder if he’s taking the job just a little too flippantly.