Saturday, May 02, 2009

Party Whip in Parliament

Mr. Tan Kin Lian
Can you write a simple an article on how the PARTY WHIP works in parliament voting. I am interested and puzzled. My understanding is that all PAP MP must vote according to party line, regardless the MP’s constituencies view or the MP’s personal view on the subject being put to vote.

My simple understanding is as follows:

[1] MP is the representative of his constituencies. His vote speaks for the people who vote for him. We can see in US or UK that senators or MP would not vote simply it is party line. They vote in accordance to their constituency. For example, I could be a right-winged conservative, but my constituency is gay by large majority. When I am called to vote, I have to respect my constituencies’ wishes. If I don’t subscribe to this “democratic process” then I have to quit as MP or go elsewhere and win others vote to be an MP.

[2] The vote count is a statistical and historical record of the decision making process. The ratio of the majority will be a precious guide to how policy is implemented and how future decision making would to be made. For example, if a bill is passed with large majority then we know it is with the people, and it can be implemented with higher conviction and pace. However, if a bill is passed with slim majority, it would have to be executed with great compassion, care, circumspect, gentleness etc, because there is still a large minority who think otherwise.

[3] I think it is inconsistent when a person debate against a bill, and voted for it eventually. I find it hard to understand and reconcile. For example, if a MP were to speak against building of Casino, he has to vote against, when the vote is being called.

Can you write something to educate me, because I find that Singaporeans need to know more about how it works and the principal behind this policy.


REPLY (revised)
You are right about the practice in Singapore and in the USA. In Singapoer, the MP has to vote according to the party line (unless the whip is lifted - which is seldom allowed). In the US, the Congressman votes according to his personal conscience (usually guided by the views of his constituents) and is not bound to vote according to the Party line. 

However, apart from Singapore, I know that the whip is also practiced in the UK. In this system, the concept is that the people vote for the policies of the party in power. The MPs are obliged to vote for the policies of the ruling party, as decided by the top leadership. This is to prevent a MP changing party and toppling the Government. In some countries, this is considered to be necessary to prevent a MP being bought over by money politics.

In my view, the US system is better. It ensures that the laws in the country better reflect the wishes and aspirations of the population. It also encourages greater transparency and discussion on the issues affecting the future of the country. It allows the citizens to be better engaged.


zhummmeng said...

This is called collective responsibility...
Sometimes the whip may not be used and that is on non important issue.Hardly there is any non important issue. Unity is to be seen.

David said...

Even if the Whip is lifted, I doubt any PAP MP will dare to take the risk by voting against the Party line. Yes, they can debate against it for show, but not the vote.

Tell me, why should they take the risk? Even if they take the risk, also may be no effect if they are the minority.

So they have everything to lose but nothing to gain by voting against the Party line, whether Whip lifted or not lifted.

Vox Leo said...

Actually the US system also has Whips, but they may be far weaker than their Westminster counterparts.

Also it's not true that US Representatives vote more along constituents lines. They tend to vote party line. Only Senators tend to vote their own way against party line, but even then it may not be according to their constituents' wishes but their own conscience. Also independence amongst Senators tends to come with seniority. Younger senators tend to be more party-liners because they need patronage to get plum committee positions.

Sensei Michael said...

I am curious. What if the Party Whip is in place and the MP voted against? Does his "against" vote still count, disciplinary actions aside?

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