[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, August 29, 2008

[From six to eight]
Parliament has been debating by-elections but I shall leave that as it is. PM's take on it is a logical and calculated argument.

But today, this post is about numbers. Sometimes a larger number may not be better. Especially when it comes to GRCs and political openness.

It seems that the Government is trying to open up and to allow diverse views to reach out to Singaporeans. With the relaxation of rules on political films and the boldness in opening up Speakers' Corner for demonstrations.

This looks like we are finally taking a step forward. But by looking at past trends, it usually ends up with two steps forward and one step back.

Early this month, a Straits Times politcal correspondent wrote about the possibility of having eight-member GRCs. Following that, PM had hinted this morning that GRCs will mark their 20th anniversary this year and there could be a "relook" at that.

Having an eight-member GRC system is not something that is not possible. Take for instance PM's ward Ang Mo Kio and Seng Han Thong's SMC Yio Chu Kang. Both town councils are run together - they have merged citing efficiency gains - as Ang Mo Kio-Yio Chu Kang Town Council. In fact, if you go to Ang Mo Kio and count the number of MPs on the national day billboards, you see seven members.

By that logic, it seems that such moves may and could be looked into in future. If you ask me, such a grouping is no different from having a super-large GRC. The intended purpose of the GRC system is to allow minority representation. But underlying it, is how the ruling party uses it to keep its stability.

But if you ask me, I am all for keeping the status quo of GRCs.

Relaxing controls on political films and public demonstrations and the use of online media during the next elections reflects a step forward for democratic development in Singapore. But by increasing the number of members required for a GRC from six to eight marks a shift back.

Why do I say that?

Simply because an increase in the number of members required for a GRC from six to eight makes it more difficult for the opposition to contest in the next elections. It is not as though they have had an easy time before with rules on minimum-sum deposits. And these deposits are only refunded if a minimum percentage of votes for the opposition are reached.

Further, the GRC system requires the need for minority members. Having a higher number for GRC could mean having more minority members. This may in turn allow for more minority representation but it also means more minority talent searches for the opposition camp.

Having said all that, there is still a way out. Opposition members could just stick to contesting SMCs instead of GRC. Unless of course SMCs disappear from the map altogether.

Perhaps to ensure more opposition members in Parliament and no undermining the stability of the ruling party Government, there could be further tweaks to the other MP schemes that allow diversity. This is something that I am in favour of.

Still, the time for such changes may not be ripe and it is not up to citizens to decide.

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