'Ironic' if NCMP changes make opposition content to vie for such seats rather than winning: WP chief Low Thia Khiang

SINGAPORE - Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang spoke on Wednesday (Jan 27) night about changes proposed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Singapore's political system, saying that the WP will have to study the proposals and consider the long term implications these could have for Singapore.

Among the changes proposed are expanding the number of Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seats in Parliament so there will be a guaranteed 12 Opposition members in the House should the People's Action Party win overwhelmingly at the polls and take up all the seats in Parliament.

There is currently provision for nine NCMP seats and on Wednesday in Parliament, PM Lee also said that he is proposing that NCMPs be given the same voting rights as elected MPs.

Mr Low has been critical of the NCMP scheme in the past, even though the party has agreed to its top losing candidates taking up the posts.

On Wednesday, he said it would be "ironic" if the changes to the scheme resulted in Opposition parties here being content to simply vie for NCMP seats rather than focus on winning constituencies outright.

"I'm not sure if it helps the Opposition, or over time, will it make the Opposition become just satisfied with competing for NCMPs instead of trying to get elected," he told reporters at his meet-the-people session at Bedok Reservoir ward of Aljunied GRC.

"So whether in the long run the device of NCMP scheme will be helpful to strengthen the political situation of Singapore, I'm not sure."

Mr Low reiterated his view that NCMPs lack both political muscle and grassroots grounding, and compared them to "duckweed on the water of the pond".

"You don't have roots, unlike elected MPs, where you have a constituency, run town council, and you get close in touch with your residents. You can sink roots there," he said. "But an NCMP is very different, so make no mistake about it, an NCMP is not an elected MP."