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Time for change in electoral system

I agree with editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang that a political system which has outlived its usefulness should evolve ("Consider return to Singapore's election system of 1965"; Jan 24)

Reverting to an electoral landscape comprised predominantly of single-seat wards is both beneficial and timely. Such a system could be said to fulfil the cornerstone of any democracy, which is that a single citizen is entitled to a single vote.

More than that, it recognises the socio-economic progress that Singapore has made.

Thanks to our ethnic integration policies, it is fair to say that our politics are largely colour-blind.

This mostly negates the need for extraordinary caveats that guarantee minority representation, since ethnic minority candidates can win, and have won, on meritocratic grounds.

The electorate is arguably more educated and discerning than ever before, thanks to a sound education system and increasingly active societal discourse. This, in turn, has led to a shift in what the populace demands of its government.

Indeed, if we are considering revising our electoral system, perhaps Parliament should also consider other elements that have been proposed.

For example, fixed electoral boundaries rather than constantly shifting districts would enhance the relationship between legislators and their constituents, and minimise feelings of disenfranchisement by voters who have been repeatedly pigeonholed into different districts come every election.

With few exceptions, shifts in population distribution within our small city-state are typically insufficient to demand carving out new districts.

Fixed constituencies also allow for a fairer evaluation of MPs across election cycles and would quell accusations of gerrymandering.

Another idea worth considering is that of depoliticising town councils.

Entrusting the management of municipal services to competent statutory boards, rather than politicians who may lack the relevant expertise, would arguably improve service standards. It would also allow MPs to focus fully on their key role as intermediaries between ordinary citizens and the state.

Singapore has made it thus far with its existing electoral institutions, but the time has come for change, so as to achieve a more open, just and egalitarian society.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2016, with the headline 'Time for change in electoral system'. Print Edition | Subscribe