NCMP scheme is a bait for the opposition

Written by Ng E-Jay
07 March 2011

For the first time since Singapore’s independence, the opposition look set to contest most, if not all, of the Parliamentary seats. This is a remarkable achievement for the opposition which contested only slightly over 55% of the seats up for grabs during the last election.

The groundswell since the last election is palpable. People are concerned with housing prices, immigration, and foreigners taking jobs, suppressing wages and diluting the local culture. As a result of the increased level of disgruntlement, I am anticipating that the PAP’s share of the valid vote nationwide will drop to between 56% and 60%. There will be many close fights in a number of GRCs.

The PAP obviously knows it will most likely do poorer in this coming election. It has pulled tricks out of its hat to confuse the opposition and mitigate the damage it might face. One of the more nefarious tricks is the revised NCMP scheme which mandates that 9 NCMP positions be filled by the best performing opposition candidates should less than 9 seats be won outright by the opposition.

The purpose of this PAP ploy is to distract the opposition and create an incentive for more in-fighting and inter-party rivalry. The PAP thinks that by doing so, opposition candidates will be tempted to spread themselves out in order to maximize their chances of becoming NCMPs, instead of focussing their efforts on a few choice GRCs with the aim of breaking the GRC gridlock. Opposition candidates might also be motivated to compete with one another for favourable constituencies, increasing the chances of squabbles.

The creation of more SMCs plays a complementary role in this process. With 9 guaranteed NCMP places for the opposition, there is increased incentive for the opposition to gun for the SMCs. This has played out exactly according to the PAP plan. Today, we see that the majority of the SMCs up for grabs have multiple opposition parties laying stakes on them, and even after a week of intense negotiations, the parties have yet to reach a compromise with the exception of a few SMCs such as Hougang, Potong Pasir and Bukit Panjang.

Clearly, the PAP has played the politics of distraction with their NCMP scheme. The opposition must wise up to what the PAP is doing and remain focussed on their primary mission, which is the break the GRC gridlock and forever lay to rest the PAP’s stranglehold on Parliament.

Breaking the GRC gridlock is in the long term interest of the people of Singapore as well as every opposition party. All opposition candidates must realize that they have the moral duty to set aside their egos and personality preferences for this greater good. If they fail to do so, Singaporeans will be at the losing end.

I believe that the opposition leaders such as Dr Chee Soon Juan, Mr Chiam See Tong, Mr Low Thia Khiang and Mr Goh Meng Seng, all can see through the PAP’s NCMP ploy and know that they should focus the main bulk of their attack on the GRCs.

But human nature is not infallible and the PAP has exploit this well. That is why opposition parties are still hogging the SMCs and failing to reach a quick compromise.

Opposition parties must understand the value of long term thinking. But refusing the NCMP carrot now and going all out to gun down a GRC, the opposition parties stand to gain much more in the long run. This is because the first one of two parties that gun down a GRC will automatically gain eminence and will find it much easier to entrench themselves in Parliament henceforth.

The strong opposition parties should therefore focus all their good candidates in the GRCs and go for the main prize. They owe that much to Singaporeans.