Saturday, February 16, 2013

The GRC system has damaged Singapore

The Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system came into effect on 1 June 1988. Prior to that date, each constituency elects its Member of Parliament based on the "first past the post" system. The candidate who has the most votes is elected, even if the share of votes is less than 50%, where there are more than two candidates.

The GRC started with 3 candidates but was later expanded to 6 candidates in some GRCs. The actual number depends on each GRC and is decided by the Elections Commission prior to each election. The boundary for each voting district can be changed at that time, to reflect changes in population.

At least a member of the slates of candidates in the GRC must be certified to be from a minority community, i.e. non-Chinese.

The purpose of the GRC system, according to the PAP Government, was to ensure minority representation in Parliament. The opposition parties saw it as a device to give advantage to the ruling party, as the GRC is usually "hemmed" by an experienced and well known minister, who is expected to be re-elected. New candidates can be placed in the GRC and elected on the "tailcoats" of the minister.

Since the implementation of the GRC system, the connection between the voters and the elected MP had weakened, and support for the once popular PAP had eroded gradually. Although the GRC was once thought to be the stronghold of the PAP, the first GRC (Aljunied) was lost to the opposition Workers Party in the 2011 election.

In the next general election in 2016, observers expect several GRCs to fall to the opposition parties - unless the PAP is able to reverse the trend of its unpopularity.

I consider the GRC system to be bad for Singapore, and is responsible for the damage that has been caused to our society over the past 25 years.

I do not accept the rationale that it is needed to ensure minority representation, as Singaporeans had always accepted our multi-racial composition. This is proven when non-Chinese have been elected in single member constituencies in the past.

A better way to ensure minority representation is nominate a few nominated MPs from the leadership of the respected non-government organisations represented these communities.

It is better for Singapore to revert to the traditional single member constituencies that is practiced in UK, Canada and Australia and was also practiced in Singapore prior to 1988.

It is also better for the sitting MPs to remain in the same constituency for several terms, as the familiarity with the residents is an asset in nation building and trust building.

The PAP should get away from the image of acting unfairly and abusing its powers. It is better to give a free choice to the voters to elect the MP to represent them.

By being more gentlemanly, the PAP will, with time, be able to rebuild the trust that has been eroded after the introduction of the GRC system.


Unknown said...

I agree with your view that GRC is bad and unfair. To ensure minority representation in the parliament, the government can allocate some SMCs for minority to contest only.

After losing a GRC, the PAP has now realized the flaw in the GRC system which allows a minnow to be voted in and cabinet ministers to be voted out in one sweep.

I believe PAP will face a very tough challenge in how to win back Aljunied GRC. Which ministers to be sacrificed will be a real headache that was created by them in the first place.

Lye Khuen Way said...

The abolishment of the GRC is definitely one of the reforms needed for Singapore to progress and for PAP to survive and be relevant.

These past 20 odd years of decline in the PAP credibility may have escaped the notice of the PAP leadership. That is price of arrogance.

Am afraid the White Paper on Population may be a bait to turn around their popularity. How ?

Just wait for the slow or sudden new found wisdom of "listening".
We already have RADM Liu hinting of "affordability" in public transport fare.....

For some, the damage done had been irreversible and unforgivable already.

Sobri said...

For Single ward system to ensure minority representations, it would be easier just to allocate only minority race candidates to contest certain wards.

veronika said...

The PAP is fully aware of the weakness in the GRC concept.

Not the system itself but the "what if" scenario. It was designed to retain their majority, the argument that it helped represent the minority happened to be an added plus.

More troubling is the ideology and the attitude and belief that the weakness can be managed.

Troubling for those that want to see the PAP in power but glee for those who want to witness their downfall. Either way, the mindset of "we are invincible" will ensure failure and certainly an unlikeable political party in peacetime. ( it may be appropriate during war to adopt such an stance)

This is an attitude that will be very difficult to reverse... well they do not have much time left and with all the boo-boos springing up now and then..

They have reached their zenith and the only routes is either plateau or down.

Vincent said...

It is over PAP's dead body to do away with the very system that still keep them in power today. Without the GRC system, I guess PAP would have been the opposition party now since GE2011. Instead I expect PAP to double down their bet come GE2016 - an even bigger super GRC something like 8 to 12 men GRC. The trick is to ensure that the opposition can never find enough good talents to form such a big team.

FL said...

If the GRC system is removed, then all constituencies will be back as SMCs. To ensure minority representatives, the nos. of SMCs to be alloted can be based on our population's racial ratio of Chinese, Indian, Malays & others. After the elections, the political parties can grouped their winning SMCs to form their own town councils. What do you think ?

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