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Backgrounder on Singapore's NCMP system

SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke extensively on the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) system in a major speech today (Jan 27) on the need to refresh Singapore’s political system for the future. Here’s a backgrounder on the scheme, which was introduced in 1984.

Backgrounder on Singapore's NCMP system

Swearing-in of NCMPs Mr Leon Perera and Mr Dennis Tan. Photo: MCI

SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke extensively on the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) system in a major speech today (Jan 27) on the need to refresh Singapore’s political system for the future. Here’s a backgrounder on the scheme, which was introduced in 1984.

Under the NCMP scheme, the losing Opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes during a General Election can be offered seats in Parliament, if the number of Opposition candidates elected as MPs fell short of the minimum number. 

Currently, the minimum number of Opposition MPs is nine and up to nine NCMPs may be appointed in each Parliament. An NCMP is entitled to vote on all matters, except Supply Bills, Money Bills, Constitutional amendments, motions of no confidence in the Government and motions on the removal of the President from office. 

In 1984, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew proposed amendments to the Constitution and the Parliamentary Elections Act to allow representation of a minimum of three Opposition MPs in Parliament. Mr Lee argued that having NCMPs would help the younger Singaporeans, who had missed out on the politics of the 1950s and 1960s, learn about constitutional opposition and what the Opposition can do.

Opposition parties were critical of the proposal which they described as a backdoor into Parliament. They argued that the scheme was a ploy by the People’s Action Party (PAP) to dissuade people from voting for the Opposition. 

Some PAP backbenchers also criticised the scheme, saying that it diminished the democratic process and that the Opposition should earn their seats. However, there were some who felt that the scheme offered the best of both worlds, as the NCMPs could be in Parliament without having to look after a constituency.

The proposed changes were passed in Parliament in July 1984 and took effect in August 1984. 

Following the GE in December 1984, Opposition candidates Chiam See Tong and J B Jeyaretnam were voted into Parliament, thus making one NCMP seat available. This seat was offered to Mr MPD Nair of the Workers’ Party. He turned it down and the seat was offered to Singapore United Front’s Tan Chee Kien. Mr Tan also did not take it up and the NCMP seat vacant was left vacant. 
In the 1988 GE, Mr Chiam was elected as the only Opposition MP. Two NCMP seats were offered to WP candidates Francis Seow and Lee Siew Choh. Both accepted, making them the first two NCMPs. Mr

Seow, who died last week, lost his seat in the same year after he was fined for tax evasion. 

Following last September’s GE, three NCMP seats were offered to Mr Leon Perera, Mr Dennis Tan and Ms Lee Li Lian - all from the WP. Ms Lee declined to take up the seat and the WP has tabled a motion for Parliament to declare the seat vacant and give it to Associate Professor Daniel Goh.

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