Saturday, February 04, 2006

GRC is a wonderful idea.

There seems to be some silence now on the 4 'time-bombs' issue. Probably because the PAP is kind enough to give the opposition a break. It is probably not due the small matter of fanatical irrational angry opposition supporters calling a morning radio current affairs talk show repeatedly to express their views on this matter. Of course, the majority of Singaporeans support the PAP govt on all the 4 poison time-bomb issues. With the help of Straits Times, we can see how poisonous those ideas are. Among them the idea to banish GRC is the most dangerous idea from the Worker's Party. The GRCs is created for the good of Singaporeans and to promote racial harmony:

1. Give minorities representation in Parliament. Although in the past candidates of minority races, say JBJ, E W Baker, Devan Nair, David Marshal...etc were elected to parliament in single wards, the PAP does not want to take it for granted that this will continue to happen. Despite the PAP's success in promoting greater racial harmony over the years, nothing should be left to chance. It is dangerous to eliminate the GRCs. Malaysians are definitely living dangerously without a GRC system to protect their racial harmony. I'm surprised so many countries use other means like proportional representation setting aside a number of seats proportional to the minority population in the country...instead of the superior idea of GRCs. While the minority representation has actually declined since GRCs were introduced, one can always apply the standard PAP argument that it would have been worse without the GRC.

2. GRC getting bigger and bigger. One might think that limiting the GRC size to 3-4 MPs would be best to maintain minority representation, but these days we have GRC size of 6. But this is probably done for the good of Singaporeans, so they have more MPs to serve them. Although I don't have the mental capacity to remember all their names and have never met any of them, I guess I'm probably an exception. Since I have never voted, sometimes I don't even know which GRC my block belongs to because the GRC boundaries keep changing.

3. GRC is a uniquely Singapore Idea. Singaporeans should be proud of this innovation. You see when you decide on an individual, you are able to figure out his values, plans and quality of his character. But for a team? Most people don't bother. Just like those bundled packaged deals that Singaporean shoppers love so much, you just can't figure how much each item is worth....but you buy it anyway because everyone else seems to be doing the same.

Singaporeans are so lucky to have GRCs, they get to vote for a team instead individuals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yawning Bread. January 2006
What our electoral system brings in

In its 2006 manifesto, the Workers' Party calls for the abolition of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs). These are large constituencies allotted 3 to 6 (often the maximum 6) members of parliament. Each party wishing to contest a GRC has to field a team with the required number of candidates and the voter has to choose an entire team, not individual candidates
Yawning Bread has long called for the abolition of these carbuncles [1]. They distort democracy rather than promote it. There are three good reasons why GRCs are against the public interest.


Firstly, given Singapore's present realities, GRCs serve to entrench the incumbent party in power rather than offer genuine choice to the people. With the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) as dominant as it is, our opposition parties are, unsurprisingly, small and poorly-funded affairs. They are also disadvantaged in the media since the government exercises undue influence on editors. The result is that it is very hard for the opposition parties to attract good candidates in order to field large teams of six candidates at a time (paying 6 times the election deposits of single-member constituencies -- see yellow box on the right for a discussion of this). But if they don't, then the entire constituency doesn't get a chance to vote. The PAP's team gets into Parliament through walk-overs. This cannot be healthy for democracy.
Secondly, GRCs play up the law of large numbers. By aggregating different districts with different socio-economic profiles and voter concerns, they dilute the voting power of specific minority groups (not just ethnic minorities, but all kinds of minorities, e.g. in terms of social class, economic distress, political colouring, age cohorts). These groups may be concentrated in certain areas, but when these areas' votes are pooled together with other areas' votes, they become voiceless.

The third complaint that many have about GRCs is that it enables the PAP to put mediocre people into parliament. The PAP tends to put a heavyweight minister as the leader of a GRC team of candidates. Behind him are neophytes or colourless technocrats. But since voters cannot choose individual candidates, the effect is to shoehorn these otherwise unelectable persons into Parliament.

Provided there is even a contest. As reason no. 1 pointed out, since GRCs by their size present such barriers of entry to opposition parties, most of the time, there's a walk-over by default.

In the most recent general election, held in November 2001, only 4 out of 14 GRCs saw a contest between the PAP and an opposition party. The majority of voters in Singapore did not get any chance to vote.

Type of constituency With contests Without. contests Total number
6-member GRC 0 5 5
5-member GRC 4 5 9
4-member GRC 0
3-member GRC 0
Single wards 9 0 9



* * * * *

Of course, the PAP disputes all the 3 reasons above for abolishing GRCs.

But former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, now Minister Mentor, scored an own goal earlier this week when the Straits Times reported him saying that,

He plans to run because he is still fit and active 'enough to fight an election' and he can groom another potential minister in his Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is in the six-man GRC, is ready to be moved to anchor another GRC, he said.

-- Straits Times, 25 Jan 2005,
'Contest the next poll? You bet, says MM'

Further down the same article,

When he runs again, he hopes to bring in new candidates of ministerial potential, like he did Mr Khaw, who entered Parliament as part of the six-member Tanjong Pagar GRC team in 2001.

'He has established himself in the last four years,' said Mr Lee of Mr Khaw. 'I think he will lead a GRC. He doesn't need me now.'

-- ibid

So there it is, proof for all the world to see: an admission that the PAP uses GRCs to shuffle faceless neophytes into Parliament hanging on to the coat-tails of better-known ones.

Lee helms the Tanjong Pagar GRC, which sends 6 members to Parliament. In the last general election, there was no contest in this GRC, so all the 6 MPs were "elected" unopposed.