The Workers' Party (WP) yesterday reiterated its longstanding opposition to the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme during a parliamentary debate, but Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said it was being "rather disingenuous" in doing so.
Mr Chan said that while the WP was against the scheme, its candidates were still taking up the NCMP seats.
WP's Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) had voiced the party's opposition to the NCMP scheme during the debate on the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill.
Among other changes, the Bill proposed increasing the number of NCMPs from nine to 12, minus the total number of elected opposition MPs.
This change is in line with an amendment made to the Constitution in 2016, which all six WP MPs voted against back then.
NCMP seats are offered to the best-performing losing opposition candidates.
The WP's position was that the NCMP scheme dissuades people from voting for the opposition, and goes against the principle that only elected lawmakers have a mandate to represent the people.
Mr Png yesterday said he supported the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, with the exception of the change to the NCMP scheme.
"We oppose the scheme as we believe in the fundamental principle that having more NCMPs is not the way forward to make our political system more robust," he said.
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, however, advised MPs that the NCMP subject was not relevant to yesterday's debate.
In his speech to wrap up the debate on the Bill, Mr Chan said that the WP has two choices if it feels unable to support the NCMP scheme.
One, he said, was for a WP candidate to publicly declare during an election that he or she will not take up the NCMP seat even if offered.
The other was for the WP to impose a rule on all its members not to take up an NCMP seat, even if it is offered.
Mr Chan said: "I think with these two options in front of us, the Workers' Party can take its pick on what it wants to do. But it would be rather disingenuous to say that we oppose the NCMP scheme and, at the same time, to take up the NCMP seat."
There are three NCMPs in the current Parliament, all from the WP - Mr Leon Perera, Mr Dennis Tan and Dr Daniel Goh.