GE2015: Workers' Party's top three losing candidates declared as NCMPs

But Lee Li Lian won't take up the seat; party wants slot to go to another of its candidates

The Workers' Party's (from left) Mr Dennis Tan, Ms Lee Li Lian and Mr Leon Perera have been declared NCMPs, but Ms Lee will not take up the offer. ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM, DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Three Workers' Party (WP) candidates who were the best performers among opposition candidates who lost at the Sept 11 polls - Ms Lee Li Lian, Mr Dennis Tan and Mr Leon Perera - have been declared as Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) by the Elections Department.

But Ms Lee will not be taking up the offer, a decision supported by the party's leadership.

The WP now wants the slot to go to another of its candidates. But in the absence of Ms Lee accepting the offer, the decision on a third NCMP seat rests with Parliament.

In reply to queries, a department spokesman on Wednesday (Sept 16) said the Attorney-General's view is, if anyone who is declared an NCMP "fails to take and subscribe before Parliament, the Oath of Allegiance under Article 61 of the Constitution" at the first or second sitting after the General Election, "then Parliament may at its discretion declare that seat vacant".

"Parliament is not thereafter obliged to declare that seat be filled by the next succeeding candidate," the spokesman added.

In announcing the NCMPs earlier, the department said Ms Lee and Mr Tan, who both ran in single wards, and the WP's East Coast GRC team, had the highest percentage of votes among unelected candidates from opposition parties.

Ms Lee, 37, MP for Punggol East after a 2013 by-election win, lost the seat last Friday, polling 48.2 per cent against the People's Action Party's (PAP) Mr Charles Chong.

Mr Tan, 45, who contested in Fengshan against the PAP's Ms Cheryl Chan, had 42.5 per cent of the vote.

The WP East Coast team of Mr Perera; IT consultant Gerald Giam, 37; sociology don Daniel Goh, 42; and former librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36, got 39.3 per cent of the vote against the PAP team.

The department said yesterday that Returning Officer Ng Wai Choong wrote to the team on Tuesday asking them to decide who would take up the NCMP seat. The group replied yesterday saying they picked Mr Perera, 44, the chief executive of a consultancy firm.

But just after Mr Ng declared Ms Lee, Mr Tan and Mr Perera as NCMPs, the WP said its central executive council backed Ms Lee's decision not to take up the seat. She first made her intention known after the Punggol East result last Friday.

The WP wants the East Coast team's Dr Goh to take the post, "should Parliament resolve to fill the vacated NCMP seat left by Ms Lee".

Mr Giam said separately in a blog post that the East Coast team decided Mr Perera and Dr Goh were the most suitable as NCMP candidates.

"They have both taken leading roles in policy work within our party, and I am confident they will be able to make very positive contributions to parliamentary debates and speak up for not just residents of East Coast GRC, but all Singaporeans," he wrote.

The WP's central executive council unanimously supported the team's decision, Mr Giam added.

Ms Lee also explained her decision on Facebook last night, saying the NCMP post was suited to someone with no parliamentary experience rather than an outgoing MP whose contributions were presented to voters. She said she quit her job to be a full-time MP, but it was not possible to be a full-time NCMP and it would be unfair on her future employer if she took leave monthly for parliamentary commitments.

NCMP seats are offered to losing opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes. Introduced in 1984, the scheme ensures a minimum number of opposition members in the House. The law says, at any general election, the number of NCMPs "shall be nine less the number of opposition MPs elected".

NCMPs can vote on all matters except supply and money Bills, constitutional amendments, no-confidence motions and motions on removing the President from office.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2015, with the headline GE2015: Workers' Party's top three losing candidates declared as NCMPs. Subscribe