Monday, August 08, 2016

Change constitution through a referendum

The people of Thailand voted in a referendum to change the constitution. The process went smoothly. The changes were approved by the people in the referendum.

The constitution of Singapore was changed a few times over the past decades to implement the Group Representative Constituency (GRC) system and the Elected President. On these occasions, the changes were passed by a two third majority in Parliament. They came from the ruling party.

What is the difference between the two processes? One is a referendum of the people and the other is a decision by Parliament.

Are the elected members of Parliament in a better position to decide what is good for the future of the country, rather than the people in general?  Surely, the majority of the people voting in the referendum would be unfamiliar with the issues and would be swayed by inflammatory campaign speeches? Some people had put forward these arguments.

I agree that with the risks of a referendum.

However, the referendum process will allow the two sides of the issues to be fully discussed and debated before the actual referendum. This rigorous process ensures that the unintended consequences are discussed as best as possible, before the final referendum take place.

If Singapore had adopted the referendum approach, the changes to the constitution would probably be rejected, as they were not adequately considered. A Parliament that is controlled by the ruling party does not play an effective check against bad policies.

We should be more active in using the referendum approach to decide on long term changes that affect our country.

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