Blurring of elective, appointive principles in political system

cap: President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second from right) taking a group photo with Cabinet ministers after the presidential swearing-in ceremony at the Istana on Sept 1, 2011.
cap: President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second from right) taking a group photo with Cabinet ministers after the presidential swearing-in ceremony at the Istana on Sept 1, 2011. PHOTO: ST FILE

The problem with the Singapore political system is the confusion over elective and appointive principles, requiring constant tinkering with the system ("Changes to political system to prepare S'pore for long term"; Thursday).

Let us take the presidency, for example. The semi-elective and semi-appointive presidency worked well for a while, until the last election, when four candidates contested, resulting in a candidate winning with only 35 per cent of the votes.

Another problem that has emerged is that there has not been a Malay president since Yusof Ishak.

Now, the Government is thinking about how to ensure that minorities have a chance to be elected president ("'Important that minorities have a chance to be elected President'"; Thursday).

Next, we have the group representation constituencies (GRCs) to ensure that minority races are represented in Parliament.

For a long time, they worked to the advantage of the ruling party, for few opposition parties had the resources to contest GRCs.

This hurdle was crossed when Aljunied GRC fell into the hands of the Workers' Party in 2011.

There are now plans to trim GRC sizes to have more single-member constituencies ("GRCs here to stay, but will be fewer and smaller"; Thursday).

There are also plans to grant Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) the same voting rights as elected MPs.

Again, the problem seems to stem from the confusion between fully elective and fully appointive MPs.

In the case of Nominated MPs, who are fully appointive, would a day come when they are given partial voting rights in Parliament, too?

Editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang's commentary advocated a return to 1965, when our political institutions were not fudged by the confusion over elective and appointive principles ("Consider return to Singapore's election system of 1965"; Sunday).

If we want to have an Upper House, then let Parliament enact a Chamber of fully Nominated MPs with no voting rights.

If we want to have an elected president, we must trust that the people of Singapore will have the brains to vote in someone credible, without having the mechanism of pre-selection.

We should not have a House of neither fish nor fowl.

Heaven forbid there should ever come a time when a vote of no confidence is tabled by a split in the ranks of the PAP, and the decisive votes come from the ranks of NCMPs.

Patrick Low Soh Chye

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Blurring of elective, appointive principles in political system'. Print Edition | Subscribe