GE 2015

WP to decide soon on whether to take up NCMP seats

Workers' Party candidate for Punggol East SMC Ms Lee Li Lian goes on a thank you procession around the neighbourhood on Sept 12, 2015.
Workers' Party candidate for Punggol East SMC Ms Lee Li Lian goes on a thank you procession around the neighbourhood on Sept 12, 2015. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Workers' Party (WP) leaders will soon decide whether to take up three Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) seats, and who will take them, party chairman Sylvia Lim said.

WP candidate Lee Li Lian, 37, who failed to defend her Punggol East SMC seat, was the best-performing loser with 48.24 per cent of votes - giving her an NCMP seat. But she has said she will not take it up so others in WP can do so, adding: "We really have some good people who deserve the slot."

Ms Lim yesterday told reporters she understood Ms Lee's choice: "If you are an elected MP, and the voters have decided not to re-elect you as MP for that constituency, it doesn't make sense for you to stay on as NCMP because the voters' decision has to stand."

Experts are divided over what will happen to the seat if Ms Lee rejects it after the offer is made by the Elections Department, likely this week. This arises from differing interpretations of the law: one being that Parliament must fill the seat, and the other that it could be left vacant.

The WP was the only opposition party to have members elected in the General Election last Friday. As it has only six MPs in the new Parliament, the law provides for another three NCMPs to be appointed from among the best-performing defeated opposition candidates - so that there are nine opposition MPs.


At the party level, the election outcome was a setback in terms of possible party renewal. We'll have to think about what is the appropriate way to move forward, because we still need some renewal of the leadership ranks sooner or later.

So we will have to do some rethinking at this point and it will be premature for me to pin down exactly the plans at this time for the party.

WORKERS' PARTY CHAIRMAN SYLVIA LIM, speaking to reporters at her Meet-the-People Session in Aljunied GRC yesterday. The WP lost Punggol East SMC, and its slate of potential new leaders who stood in East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC also failed to get elected.

Constitutional law expert Kevin Tan, who teaches at the National University of Singapore (NUS), told The Straits Times yesterday that his reading of Article 39 of the Constitution and of Section 52 of the Parliamentary Elections Act obliges Parliament to have three NCMPs for this term. "The seat cannot be left vacant. A combined reading of both provisions makes it clear that Parliament must have nine members who do not form the government."

Next on the list after Ms Lee are all from the WP: lawyer Dennis Tan, 45, who won 42.48 per cent of the vote in Fengshan SMC; and the East Coast GRC team, which won 39.27 per cent of the vote.

The team, led by former NCMP Gerald Giam, 37, also includes consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, 44; sociology don Daniel Goh, 42; and former public servant Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36.

Another expert, former Nominated MP Thio Li-Ann, however, holds a different view. She told The Straits Times that Parliament may opt to leave the seat vacant.

"The Returning Officer will declare the NCMPs to be elected, and they must turn up when Parliament opens to take an oath," said Dr Thio, who also teaches at NUS.

Ms Lee will not attend if she does not want the seat, Dr Thio said. "Parliament may then either say the seat shall remain vacant, or that it will go to the next-best performer."

Her views echo those by Dr Jack Lee of the Singapore Management University, who wrote on a blog that the People's Action Party-dominated Parliament has the right to decide whether to fill the seat. But Dr Lee thinks it is unlikely the seat will be left vacant as this goes against the intent of the NCMP scheme.

• Additional reporting by Chong Zi Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'WP to decide soon on whether to take up NCMP seats'. Print Edition | Subscribe