The 2011 parliament according to my model

Long-time readers of Yawning Bread will know that I have been arguing for a mixed model for Singapore’s parliament, since at least ten years ago. If my idea had been in effect, what would the 2011 parliament look like? Would it better reflect the people’s will?

Using the vote counts from this general election, I have estimated the composition that would result. Opposition members would make up about 24 percent of the new parliament, far improved from the current 81:6 ratio (or 6.9 percent), or 81:9 ratio (10 percent) if one adds in non-constituency members of parliament.

Briefly, to recapitulate my model:

I have long proposed that Singapore’s parliament should be comprised of members elected via two routes: (a) first-past-the-post from single-member constituencies (SMC) and (b) an equal number through proportional representation. The total number of members of parliament (MP) is not essential to fix, but in this exercise, for convenience I assume it is 87 x 2 = 174. That is, there are 87 SMC MPs and 87 MPs elected by proportional representation.

Singapore desperately needs some form of proportional representation. This is because as a single city-state with ethnic quotas for public housing (in which 85 percent of the population lives), there is considerable homogeneity across constituencies. A minority is a minority everywhere; it has no precinct of concentration. As a result, any election using a first-past-the-post system will tend to produce super-majorities in parliament from relatively small majorities vote-wise.

Look at the actual results of the 7 May 2011 poll. The People’s Action Party (PAP) got 60.1 percent of ballots cast but swept 93.1 percent of elected seats.

Many people would consider the result and the system that produced it, inherently unfair. I do.

One solution would be to go for a pure proportional representation system, one where the PAP would have gotten only 60.1 percent of seats for 60.1 percent of the votes that it obtained. A valid criticism of pure proportional representation systems is that it tends to produce hung parliaments, i.e. parliaments with no party having a majority, though this is not as terrible as it sounds. Coalition governments have been known to be effective. In any case, even if a party has a simple majority and forms the government with no demurral from other parties, it doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing either. Parties can contain factions and factional disputes can be more bitter and protracted than any dispute between coalition partners.

So I’ve long said, let’s have a blend of the two. 50 percent of the seats from SMCs and 50 percent from proportional representation.

I can well anticipate comments to this article suggesting all sorts of variants, but let me say this: Electoral systems need to be simple enough for laymen to understand. The more complicated it is, the more opaque the electoral process will appear to the average Joe or Jill, and the less legitimacy it may have in their eyes. So keep it simple.

You would notice that in my system, there are no group representation constituencies, there are no non-constituency members of parliament. And definitely no nominated members of parliament, which to me is a real bastardisation of democracy if ever there was one.

* * * * *

OK, so we have 87 SMC seats and 87 proportional representation seats. Based on the results from the poll earlier this month, how would they have been allocated? Let’s take the SMC seats first.

SMC seats

Hougang SMC went to the Workers’ Party (WP) on 7 May 2011. Naturally, one can assume it would go to the WP if my model had been in effect. Aljunied GRC also went to the WP, but in my system, GRCs would no longer exist. Instead, Aljunied would be five SMCs corresponding to the five precincts of Aljunied GRC. On 7 May 2011, each of these five precincts gave a majority to the WP, based on what I’ve heard from WP insiders. In other words, if they had been separate SMCs, the WP would have won all five.

One of the precincts voted almost 60 percent in favour of the WP. The last precinct  however, was a close shave, just a tad over 50 percent. In other words, the WP’s vote-share of 54.7 percent in Aljunied GRC was an average of precincts with vote-shares ranging from about 50 to about 60 percent, a ten-percentage point spread.

This is roughly consistent with what I was told about East Coast GRC, the GRC with the next-highest opposition vote share. The WP gained 45.2 percent of valid votes cast. East Coast GRC also has five precincts, of which WP scored a majority in one., roughly consistent with the expected top end of the ten-percentage point spread. The People’s Action Party (PAP) retained a majority in the other four precincts. So if East Coast GRC had instead been five SMCs, one would have gone to the WP and four to the PAP.

The GRC with the third-highest vote for an opposition party was Marine Parade GRC with 43.4 percent for the National Solidarity Party (NSP). I do not know the results by precinct, but applying the estimated ten-percentage point spread, even its best-performing precinct would only be 48.4 percent. Thus I would not be giving the NSP any seats even if all five precincts of Marine Parade GRC had been SMCs.

To summarise, if there had been 87 SMCs, the WP would have won 7 and the PAP 80. See the second column from left.

Proportional representation seats

To allocate the proportional representation seats, we need first to look at total vote-shares. 60.1 percent gave their vote to the PAP, so I will give this party 60.1 percent of 87 proportional representation seats, i.e. 52 seats.

The remaining 35 seats would go to opposition parties. In what proportion?

One’s first instinct might be to apply the relative vote-shares obtained in the recent election, but to do so would be flawed. This is because which opposition  party a voter voted for was not really determined by the voter. His choice was constrained by the fact that, except in Pungol East SMC, he had only one opposition party standing in his ward. Hence, the vote shares obtained by respective opposition parties were largely determined by how many constituencies they put candidates into.

In a proportional representation poll, a voter is presented with a complete list of all the parties and he has a free choice of party. Therefore, a better indicator of voting outcome would be the internet poll I did, and which is described in the article Talk at the Post Museum: election perspectives. One of the questions in that survey was: If you could choose among all these parties, which would you consider your first choice? The results:

Based on these percentages, I would allocate 25 seats to WP, 9 seats to SDP and 1 seat to the Singapore People’s Party (SPP). The exact calculation is shown in the table above.

In total therefore, parliament per my electoral system would comprise 132 PAP MPs, 32 from WP, 9 from SDP and 1 from SPP. The seating plan in the Chamber would look something like this — which is a lot more “normal”, with a clear opposition block facing the ministers’ bench.

* * * * *

The Workers’ Party, in its campaign, asked voters to demonstrate with their ballot their desire for a First World Parliament. Despite scoring an average of 46.7 percent in the areas it contested, the party earned a mere six seats. For the opposition as a whole, despite scoring an average of 39.9 percent of all valid votes cast, they still ended up with the same six seats.

We can’t get a First World Parliament because the system is designed against one. Reform, in my view, must include reforming the electoral system, and I hope I have demonstrated how simple it is to produce an electoral outcome that is miles fairer and more representative than what we actually got.

51 Responses to “The 2011 parliament according to my model”

  1. 1 yuenchungkwong 28 May 2011 at 18:54

    the current system gives the large parties, currently PAP and WP, more chance to have parliamentary representation and less to the smaller parties. whereas proportionate representation would give more chance to 3rd, 4th… largest parties

    given the social and media trends, it is unlikely that PAP will try to achieve clean sweeps like it tried in the past, instead, it would be more productive to live with opposition diversity; PAP is therefore more likely to show favour towards proportionate representation than before

    in passing, I point out your model is currently practised in Taiwan

  2. 2 J 28 May 2011 at 19:25

    There were rumours that in Tin Pei Ling’s ward of Macpherson, the PAP vote share was less than 50%. If that is true, then NSP would have gotten one seat.

  3. 3 Gard 28 May 2011 at 22:23

    Mmm. Based on your proposal, it would seem that Ms Nicole Seah from NSP won’t even grace the imperial court. Can this be what voters want?

  4. 4 reservist_cpl 29 May 2011 at 00:58

    You have probably anticipated my comment. Why not consider the Single Transferable vote or any other kind of preferential voting system?

  5. 5 Tibia 29 May 2011 at 01:44

    In your system, would the non-constituency mps have full rights? Can they be in the Cabinet? Note that India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, comes from the Upper House and as such has never won an seat. So there is precedence.

    If so, your system will also address what I feel is an issue in Singapore’s elections: People who make good municipal leaders might not make good national leaders and vice-versa.

    Finally as you say, electoral systems need to be simple enough for laymen to understand. I find it amusing that you then go on to propose your system. As shown in the recent referendum in the UK, even something a little more complicated than FPTP might not be accepted. And that is in a more mature democracy. Hopefully, I am mistaken. After all, GRCs can sound complicated when you first describe them (I have explained them many times to my foreign friends) but Singaporeans seem to have no trouble!

    • 6 yawningbread 29 May 2011 at 14:06

      You wrote: “In your system, would the non-constituency mps have full rights?”

      Would you care to read the article again?


      People may understand GRCs, but is it a fair system?

      The UK, because (a) voters are not homogeneously spread across the entire country, (b) it has two equally well-developed political parties, does not tend to produce supermajorities like tiny compact Singapore does.

      • 7 Tibia 30 May 2011 at 15:02

        I also feel that GRCs are unfair.

        As far as I know, the alternative vote proposed in the UK is a ‘fairer’ system than FPTP. It would aid parties like the Lib Dems who are usually underrepresented in Parliament (compared to their vote share). And yet, the proposal was resoundingly defeated. While I understand that the UK is very different than Singapore, my point was that a different electoral system might be just as hard to sell in Singapore.

        It will be interesting to see the results of a referendum in New Zealand set for later this year which will decide whether to keep proportional representation. If they revert back to their old system (FPTP), I fear that opponents of electoral reform in Singapore will use that as an example to preserve the status quo. Once again I hope that that is not the case, and I am just being paranoid.

  6. 8 Lanslord 29 May 2011 at 10:34

    Given the large number of MPs proposed in your system, there has to be a re-look at the jobscope and pay of these politicians. Singapore is a tiny island, and having 174 MPs seems like a waste of taxpayers money.

    I think the calculation based on vote percentage in each precinct for the GRCs this election is fairly inaccurate. This is because when voters vote in GRCs, no matter which precinct, they are looking at all 4 or 5 candidates. Hence, even if voters are particularly impressed with say, 1 or 2 Opposition candidates, they would still hesitate to vote for the entire team. The reason why WP won in Aljunied is pretty simple to me, they had a good team with no deadweight. Any oppostition team must have at least 3 ‘good’ candidates to stand a chance in the GRCs. For example, NSP (i honestly think they need a much better campaign strategist) had some good candidates. Goh Meng Seng, Hazel Poa, Tony Tan and Nicole Seah would have stood a chance if they weren’t all deployed separately in different GRCs (note: Hazel Poa and Tony Tan were contesting in the same GRC).

    Personally, I believe that purely having SMCs would be a good step forward, before a drastic overhaul of the electoral system. Of course, the neutrality of Elections Department has to be be upheld and not controversially placed under the PMO, but I digress.

    • 9 yawningbread 29 May 2011 at 14:05

      Re total number of MPs, see my reply to abao below.

      You wrote: “Personally, I believe that purely having SMCs would be a good step forward, before a drastic overhaul of the electoral system. Of course, the neutrality of Elections Department has to be be upheld and not controversially placed under the PMO, but I digress.”

      No matter how independent the Election Commission is, the tendency towards supermajorities, giving enormous power to one party, will be there under a first-past-the-post system. Look at the 2008 election in Taiwan. The Pan-Blue Coalition swept 65 out of 79 constituency seats (82%) by winning 55.3 percent of ballots cast. Fortunately, it has a prop rep section to balance it out a little. See:,_2008

  7. 10 abao 29 May 2011 at 11:11

    174 seats seems a tad too much, though i agree that our electoral system desperately needs reform.

    • 11 yawningbread 29 May 2011 at 13:55

      On what basis do you say it’s too many? Is it merely because we think the status quo number of 87 is “just right”? If so, why?

      Estonia, population 1.3 million, nbr of MPs = 101.
      Jamaica, population 2.8 million, nbr of MPs = 60 (lower house), 21 (upper house)
      Lithuania, population 3.5 million, nbr of MPs = 141.
      New Zealand, population 4.2 million, nbr of MPs = 122.
      Ireland, population 4.2 million, nbr of MPs = 166 (lower house), 60 (upper house)
      Denmark, population 5.5 million, nbr of MPs = 179.

      Consider this: As Singapore becomes a “normal” country, the typical number of MPs a ruling party will have in parliament will be something like 50 – 65 percent. If we only have 87 MPs, then the majority party will have just 44 to 57 MPs. Out of this number it will have to find about 15 cabinet ministers and about 10 more sub-ministerial political appointees. It will be stretch to do so and still have enough MPs to pay attention to constituents.

      But, as I said, the total number is not carved in stone. The principle of 50 percent constituency seats + 50 percent prop rep seats is what I am arguing for. By the way, as Yuen above says, Taiwan operates a similar system though they have 73 constituency seats, 6 aboriginal seats and 34 prop rep seats. Lithuania has 71 constituency seats and 70 prop rep seats.

      • 12 abao 29 May 2011 at 21:28

        i see… i should have given it more thought before commenting.

        actually i dont even understand how the seats were increased from 82 to 87, even though i know that it was probably determined by population count of the various wards.

        before any changes be made i would suggest the elections committee be changed into a independent office and regular updates be published over how their process on the various formulae are decided upon.

  8. 13 nicebutwhat 29 May 2011 at 13:11

    174*$15000*12*5years + pension?

    Your model will raid our reserve right? ha ha ha

    • 14 yawningbread 29 May 2011 at 13:43

      When was it fixed in heaven that Singapore MPs must be paid so much each?

      • 15 Nicetalkbutwhat? 29 May 2011 at 18:50

        PAP said so what… how much you propose?

      • 16 Lanslord 29 May 2011 at 20:59

        As per my post above, I am merely stating that in order to have the proposed system, a hard look at the jobscope and pay of the MPs is needed. Having them just do MPS once a week and keeping their dayjob is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

        My thinking is that singapore is a small country, and that each MP would only have to look after an even smaller area. I do concede that I did not take the population into consideration, although looking at the MPS numbers, the current number of MPs seems adequate IF they can just meet their residents more than once a week!

        Also, thank you for opening my eyes to the parlimentary system of other countries, I would not have been exposed to them otherwise.

  9. 17 Zareth 29 May 2011 at 14:46

    While I agree with your model, I just need to be clear on one thing.

    You advocate for a proportional representative system as you stated in the beginning of your post that “a minority is a minority everywhere”. Yet, when you were allocating the seats in the Parliament, you based it on the number of votes a party obtained. It seems like you are trying to advocate for a party proportional representation, not an ethnic one.

    I’m not against a proportional representative system but I feel that we need to be clear what sort of PR system we want.

    Also, I’m not so big on the first-past-the-post system. Perhaps we could implement the alternative voting system?

    • 18 yawningbread 29 May 2011 at 14:58

      You seem to understand the word “minorities” in a typically Singaporean way — to mean only ethnic minorities.

      • 19 Jeremy Tiang 29 May 2011 at 17:07

        To be fair, Alex, you invite that interpretation in your original article – by mentioning ‘ethnic quotas’ in public housing immediately before talking about the homogeneity across consituencies. Perhaps a more cogent reason for this is mixed bands of public housing across the island, so that social classes are evenly distributed (ie. each constituency contains everything from 3-room HDB flats to executive condos).

        I’m also interested in why it would be that Singaporean minorities don’t have precincts of concentration. And is this really the case? Empirical observation suggests that the area where I live (Tiong Bahru) has a higher-than-average concentration of gay residents. It would be interesting to see what response Vivan B would have had to his smears here.

  10. 20 Ghanz Lek 29 May 2011 at 15:00

    Wish they’ll just fix the SMCs / GRCs and stop changing it! E.g. US has states and state lines don’t change. Personally I think GRCs are fine, but not if their boundaries change 2 weeks before elections. (Then PAP claims that the opposition doesn’t “walk the ground” and are opportunists)

  11. 21 Western Cat 29 May 2011 at 15:16

    Very nice.

    How about the New Zealand system?

    1. Every citizen has two votes, one for the candidate contesting the SMC, one for a party.

    2a. There will be 87 SMCs.

    2b. There will be 87 Party-list seats.

    3. The 87 Party-list seats will be assigned such that the party’s overall share of seats in parliament will reflect the proportion in the party-vote.

    • 22 Koshchei 30 May 2011 at 00:05

      The New Zealand system shares similarities with this one, except for the New Zealand system, you can generally expect a better proportional representation, due to the difference in list-seat assignment.

      In New Zealand, Sainte-Laguë method is used. Thus local-representative-seats gained reduces the proportion of list-seats for the party. On the other hand, there are rare anomalies where voting in a candidate for a constituency reduces the total number of seats a party can get.

  12. 23 Keith 29 May 2011 at 16:15

    As a voter from East Coast GRC, I am intrigued at your observation that one of the five precincts gave the WP a majority at the elections. Is it possible to share which precinct it was?

  13. 24 Jason 29 May 2011 at 17:24

    Agree. I’ve always felt that the NMPs and NCMPs should be replaced by MPs elected on a proportional representation system in addition to the FPTP ones. If they were really serious about having other voices in parliament, then by all means let the people choose the alt voices instead of they picking the NMPs, and also give them the same rights and voting privileges as the FPTP MPs. Though I was a bit more conservative and went for either 1/4 1/3 of the seats assign via that method.

    Out of curiosity and going off tangent, what do you feel or think about “functional” constituencies?

  14. 26 tk 29 May 2011 at 20:58

    hi alex, off topic, but if you use a photo from flickr, you’re required by their TOS to provide a direct link to that photo. even if it is an awful HDR photo of an awfully bland building, thems the rules…

  15. 27 Koshchei 29 May 2011 at 21:25

    The system is a Parallel voting or Mixed Member Majoritarian (MMM) with 50:50 constituency seats to party-list seats, used in South Korea and Taiwan. It still produces a rather disproportional result, as noted tin the above comment about the 2008 Taiwan election. It is similar to Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), used in Germany and New Zealand, except that MMP does additional compensation for proportional-representation (PR) seats. This means that in the scenario given the article, PAP would not have any PR seats since they have an overwhelming number of SMC seats, but the PR seats are distributed to the remaining parties. Consequently, we can reduce the number of seats to probably 60% of SMC seats.

    One thing which needs to be said about the system in the article is the inability for the electorate to select individual candidates. This means that it is possible for candidates coat-tail in to parliament. This also implies that during nomination, each party would need to publish the party-list of candidates to be assigned to PR seats in the event they are not elected into SMC seats. One variation is to use the system in Baden-Wurttemburg state elections, where instead of party-lists, the “best near-winner” method is used.

    For ethnic minorities, we can study Taiwan’s system which has 6-8 aboriginal seats in 2 non-geographical constituencies.

    Personally I would prefer Single Transferable Vote (STV), mainly because it gives a proportional result, while reducing the need for additional seats, and also eliminates coat-tailing. However, I think Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) or Alternative-Vote-Plus (the topic in the UK referendum recently) is a still a good compromise.

  16. 28 Fredrick Goh 29 May 2011 at 21:50

    The thing is that by creating so many seats will we introducing a new politician class of pple, who will over the time, simply reduce politics into mere jostling session to get their pple in parliments? (u rub my back I rubs urs next time)

    I think the first step is to set in concrete the various smc precinct and make it into the law that it will never be re-bordered for whatever reason. No system is safe if during each election the smc border keep changing.

    • 29 yawningbread 29 May 2011 at 23:26

      You can never set constituency boundaries into concrete because population shifts, so to keep constituencies of similar size, boundaries have to be adjusted.

      • 30 Rajiv Chaudhry 30 May 2011 at 00:53

        Interesting observation. A solution is to declare the whole of Singapore as a single electoral ward. This will put an end to gerrymandering once and for all.

        Singapore is small enough and homogeneous enough for a single national constituency to be feasible (in conjunction with a full PR system).

        The precedent is in Israel. The whole of Israel is a single electoral district. See

        PS Constituencies are hardly of similar sizes. In GE2011 GRC sizes varied from 87,500 (Moulmein-Kallang) to 180,000 (Ang Mo Kio). Only the PMO, in its wisdom, knows the rational behind boundary changes.

      • 31 Anonymous 30 May 2011 at 07:30

        At the very least not adjusted so drastically as we see in the GRC system where we see Hougang being cut up into so many pieces.

  17. 32 Jeremy Tiang 30 May 2011 at 00:16

    This is a bit of a digression, but along with discussing how best to elect our MPs, perhaps we should talk about what their job scope should cover.

    There is only one layer of elected government in Singapore (unlike, say, the UK, which has elected local councils – which oversee issues such as rubbish collection and upgrading of public housing – as well the national government). This leads to the conflation of localised and national issues – people vote because they want their public services to be run by the party with the clout and infrastructure to get things done, and because the pragmatism of day-to-day issues matters to them more than national politics.

    In the UK, it’s possible for an area to have, say, a Labour-dominated council and a Tory MP. This can be because local and national elections were held at different times, or simply because voters chose the individuals they liked best rather than voting along party lines.

    And I think this is where Alex’s system comes into its own – people can vote for the party they want to run their local area under first-past-the-post, and cast their proportional representation vote for another party – say the SDP – because they feel that party’s line is closest to the way they would like this country to go. As the PR votes should be collated nationally, they are more likely to represent the true intent of voters, being removed from petty on-my-doorstep concerns.

    (I’d rather have a system where flat-upgrading wasn’t tied to voting at all, of course, or indeed live in a country where people weren’t so obsessed about the price of their flats. But Alex has already pointed out the many reasons why this is unlikely to happen anytime soon).

    • 33 Rajiv Chaudhry 30 May 2011 at 17:36

      Your suggestion makes a lot of sense. To marry it with Alex’s ideas, it could work in this way:

      1 Divvy up the country into a number of SMCs, say 60 SMCs. We assume SMC battles would be fought on local issues, what YB has previously called “municipal issues”.

      2 Have another 60 seats (or any other number, equal to the number of SMC seats) up for grabs on a national basis with the whole country earmarked as one electoral division. Parties put up slates of candidates. Each party gets seats in proportion to the votes polled. So, if party X polls 20% of the votes, it gets 12 seats which go to the top 12 candidates listed on its slate.

      There would be room for all sorts of minority interests to be represented in this kind of PR system (I could start a “save the Rhesus monkey party”), with the caveat that the party would need to poll a minimum of Y% of votes nationally to secure a seat (with 60 seats, 2% of the votes would secure 1 seat). A cut off of about 4-5%, representing about 100,000 voters based on an electorate of 2.5 million would seem about right.

      But then, of course, we need to debate whether a parliament made up of 50% municipal councillors is right? Should municipal councillors sit in the national parliament at all?

  18. 34 Anonymous 30 May 2011 at 01:53

    How do you apportion ward responsibilities to the prop rep MPs? Who do they represent on the ground?

    • 35 yawningbread 30 May 2011 at 12:36

      No they have no ward responsibilities, unless they are covering for a constituency MP. Prop Rep MPs’ chief role is to focus on national issues, something sorely lacking in our current arrangement.

      • 36 Tibia 30 May 2011 at 14:32

        In my original comment a lot earlier, I referred to non constituency mps. What I meant was Prop Rep MPs.

        Since half the MPs have no ward responsibilities in your system, wouldn’t there effectively be 2 classes of MPs?

        Is this something which you expect/accept?

        I can see this eventually evolving to a virtual bicameral system. This may finally split national issues from town council management issues which I feel would be a good thing.

      • 37 Emeritus Quittor 31 May 2011 at 17:29

        Like many ask, what is the job scope of a member of parliament?

        At the present, MPs has local and national responsibilities. Already we have MPs having different portfolio, directorships and some are cabinet ministers, and yet the impression we get is MPs are part-time job.

        A lot of what MPs are projected to do (as in GE 2011 hustings) are actually job scope of town Councillors, do we expect MPs to ensure we have nice playgrounds, fresh coat of paint, rubbish to be cleared every morning, a new sheltered walkway? Seems to me a town council responsibilities. We have PAP MPs harping on exactly these issues during rallies.

        Really, MPs should be debating about housing shortages, affordability, housing policies, etc and let town councillors worry about upkeep and maintenance of the town including upgrading.

        In some countries, like Australia, Councillors are elected. We would have less room for errors and below par performance if this is so.

    • 38 Anon 30 May 2011 at 14:55

      I am all for prop rep as it seems the fairest way to ensure that every or nearly every citizen is represented in parliament.

      But, legitimacy is usually territory-based. Without such a reference point, we have a situation where a prop rep MP is really representing ALL those who voted for them nation-wide. The practical issue is how would the prop rep MP and his/her supporters be able to meet/interact to discuss any issues and the concomitant actions flowing from that?

      I don’t know how a bicameral legislature works (eg as in Malaysia) but can we not have something like that?

      • 39 Koshchei 30 May 2011 at 23:34

        To Tibia,

        Regarding the 2 classes of MPs, this is one of the criticisms about both Mixed-Member-Proportional (MMP) and Mixed-Member-Majoritarian (MMM) systems. The directly elected MPs are beholden to both the party and the constituency, while the prop rep MPs are only beholden to the party.

        Whether prop rep MPs will be regarded as 2nd class MPs depends on the country. In the Scottish parliament, they have that problem, but it does it exist in Germany. I believe in Singapore’s case, the stigma from the NCMP scheme may carry over to this, despite being more powerful.

        Actually, when you think about it, the current NCMP scheme is a crippled version of the proposed method. Give NCMPs full voting rights, increase the number to almost the same size, tweak the apportionment method to handle cases where there is no clear majority, and you will pretty much get a legitimate MMP or MMM system.

        To Anon,

        The legitimacy for the prop rep MPs comes from the second part of the ballot, where electors chose the party they want to represent them in parliament. In other words, it is not about the individual candidates’ capabilities at the municipal level, but whichever ideologies and policies espoused by the party.

        Regarding bicameral legislature, having a upper house alone would not solve anything, since a party having overwhelming majority in the upper house would effectively make it a rubber-stamping committee, and hence the need for proportional representation in the upper house will still remain.

        With regards to the Malaysian system, one major problem in Malaysia is that it is adopted from the British system, and the most of the upper house is appointed by the Yang-di-Pertuan Agong. It still functions like a rubber-stamping committee.

  19. 40 jay sim 30 May 2011 at 08:50

    I would like to know what do Mayors do and how do they fit in the electoral system. Also it would be a good idea to separate local from national politics. Local politics taking care of municipal issues should devolve to town councils. MPs are elected to discuss national policies. This is quite a common practice in other countries too.

    Then the bugbear about linking upgrading will be gone.

  20. 41 emptyvessel 30 May 2011 at 11:12

    Thank you for another interesting piece. And here, as you anticipated, is a variant electoral model.
    My view is that instead of abolishing the GRC system, it should be reformed and extended to the whole country.
    Every constituency should be a three-member GRC, with a fourth member added from a losing party or in a second round of polling.
    All three candidates of the party that secures a simple majority of votes will become MPs. As will one member of any losing team that gets at least one-third of the votes.
    If no losing party has one third of the votes, a second round should be held, say a week later, with the entire constituency voting to choose the fourth MP.
    This, I feel, will retain some of the benefits of the GRC system, while providing a form of proportional representation.
    It will give the simple majority a decisive three-to-one advantage, and get others into parliament as well.
    If one party wins all constituencies in a closely-fought election, (which seemed a real possibility this time) it will still get no more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament.
    If it gets so dominant in any constituency that other parties get too few votes or don’t contest at all, it will still have to go back to the electorate before it can make a clean sweep of all the four seats. Which means voters will get a second chance to shape parliament based on the results of the first round.
    I tried to work out what the 2011 parliament would have looked like with this system, assuming that each party’s share of the vote remained the same, with some approximation.
    The 87 seats would have been in 29 three-member constituencies and the addition of the fourth member would have increased the total number of seats in parliament to 116.
    The PAP would have won 27 constituencies outright, getting 81 MPs. It would have got another two MPs by getting more than a third of the votes in the two three-member constituencies won by the WP. (And George Yeo could have remained foreign minister.)
    The WP would have contested another six constituencies and with more than one-third of the vote in all of them would have a total of 12 MPs.
    The NSP would have contested eight three-member-constituencies and ended up with an MP each from all of them. And so would the SDP from four constituencies and the SPP from two.
    That would leave 21 seats in seven constituencies where the PAP would have won more than two-thirds of the vote. And if the second round in those constituencies followed the same voting pattern, the PAP would have won four of them and the opposition three.
    The final tally would have been PAP 87 and opposition 29.

    • 42 Koshchei 31 May 2011 at 00:24

      I would disagree with using this method, primarily because:

      1. In most cases in a 2-party system, you will have have one party having 75% of the seats, due to the effects of First-Past-the-Post. The proportion of seats allocated to each party is still not close to the proportion of nationwide votes for each party, and the single remaining seat hardly changes the proportion to a level where it matters (i.e. <66.6% pf seats)

      2. Given the assumption in 1., the effect is the same as having scenario with an overwhelming majority in the proposed system in the article, while giving only 25% prop rep seats, as opposed to 50%.

      3. Requiring additional rounds of elections, as opposed to simply having an additional entry on the ballot.

      A simpler solution modified from yours would be to have in each constituency:
      1. 1 seat reserved for ethnic minority, voted using any plurality voting system.
      2. Remaining seats contested using single-transferable-vote or party-list proportional representation systems. The key thing here is to avoid using party-block-vote (i.e. GRC system).

  21. 43 anon 31 May 2011 at 00:38

    Hi Koshchei,

    So do both ‘types’ of MPs meet in the same chamber to debate, vote and pass laws?

    Or, they have separate chambers?

    What’s the division of labour/responsibilities like between them? Who takes care of what?

  22. 44 yawningbread 31 May 2011 at 01:49

    In parliaments with mixed models, e.g. Taiwan and Lithuania, there are no hard rules about division of responsibility. MPs belong to various parties and parties will naturally assign MPs to certain roles. It is obvious that constituency MPs will work closely with the ground, and through such work, any insight they gain from common problems faced by residents, they can bring up in parliament. That does not mean they can’t bring up any other issue for which they or their party has an opinion on.

    Prop rep MPs, without a constituency to mind, can devote more time to researching national issues, thereby providing more depth in parliamentary debate. They can also be assigned by their parties to keep close contact with functional constituencies, e.g. a Prop Rep MP may be assigned the role of being the party’s liaison with small business, another Prop Rep MP assigned the role of being the party’s liaison with the Malay community, while a third engages regularly with media and the arts. Being better informed, they can speak up on these issues in the legislature.

    I think parliamentary processes will be richer when we have a mixed model.

  23. 45 wikigam 31 May 2011 at 01:55

    Yawning , You are ” True intelligent” talent. I feel very sick to watch the ” GROUP of PIGS” playing the drama/wayang.

    I wish no to watch anymore , but the show is anywhere & anytime !

  24. 46 poseph 31 May 2011 at 15:38


    I agree with the general premise of the mixed proportional representation, but your implementataion of how the various opposition parties should get seats is seriously flawed, and shows a clear bias for the SDP. I am truly disappointed in how your political leanings has clouded your usually impeccable reasoning.

    Allocating the opposition seats based on an internet survey is completely baseless. How can anyone seriously argue that, for instance, the SDP has 25 times more support compared to the NSP?

    One only has to look at the actual election results to see that this is wrong. The best performance of the SDP was 39.9% in Holland Bukit Timah. The best performance of the NSP was 43.4% in Marine Parade. The 2nd best was 42.8% at Tampines. Both of these exceeds the SDP’s best performance. Even on an average percent vote getting of the districts each contested, the NSP did better than the SDP (39.3%vs. 36.8%), and they did so across a greater number of electoral divisions.

    Even the SPP did better on an average basis, but I can accept that they contested a smaller number of seats, so using this as a sampling of their “actual level of support” is probably not very accurate.

  25. 47 Jeffrey Soh 31 May 2011 at 15:55

    Great Alternative to the GRC system…hope it will come to past one day.

  26. 48 poseph 31 May 2011 at 16:28

    To address how in my view, the proportional seats should have been divided, I have the following rough idea.

    Looking at the % vote in the districts that were contested, the 6 opposition parties can be divided into 3 groups.

    The first tier is the WP at 46.6%.

    The second tier consists of the NSP (39.3%), SPP (41.4%)and SDP (36.8%).

    The third tier consists of RP (31.8%)and SDA (30%).

    I would give the WP around 2/3 of opposition proportional seats based on its clear leadership role, both in terms of its vote getting percentage and the 23 seats that it contested.

    The 3rd tier should get 0 seats or at most only 1 seat. They had low level of support, plus they contested in a smaller number of seats. Their number is probably the base opposition support level, irrespective of any party identity/affiliation

    The 2nd tier is a bit complicated, but 1 thing is clear. The NSP should get more seats than the SDP or the SPP. It generally had higher level of % support, and it demonstrated its support level across 24 seats. The SPP had higher level of % vote support than the SDP, but it did so across lesser seats (11 seats of SDP vs. 7 seats for SPP). Just to make things simple, I would say that of the 1/3 seats allocated to the 2nd tier, the NSP should get half of those, and the SPP and SDP should eacg get 1/4.

  27. 49 leo 1 June 2011 at 12:30

    @ poseph:

    NSP candidates are town councillors though, not the ones to discuss national policies (except Hazel Poa and Tony Tan?). Even Nicole Seah will probably need some years to mature before she can take on that kind of role.

    You can see the difference in manifestos from “more directed” parties like WP and SDP and the “let’s just contest seats to kick PAP out” parties like NSP and SDA.

    Even though the votes might signify that NSP is the 2nd most popular opposition party behind WP, empirical observation does support Alex’s survey findings that most people will choose to elect a SDP candidate, behind a WP candidate if they were not voting for the PAP. Do take in mind that NSP probably benefited from contesting in GRCs like Marine Parade (TPL effect), Tampines (MBT-bashing), thus they got a whole bunch of “easy votes” too.

  28. 50 Ah Song 5 June 2011 at 13:41

    @ poseph,I beg to differ too. NSP is probably benefiting from the “second choice” effect. They probably got a higher score than the SDP where they contested because they are seen as a the next best alternative among those who support the WP.

    But if WP stood in those same constituencies, the NSP would be wiped out. Just like what happened in Punggol where the WP candidate (sorry I cannot remember her name, but I know it’s a she) reduced the grown man in SDA Desmond to tears and made him lose his deposit.

    In Alex’s model, voters will be able to choose among all parties for the propo rep vote, and I think the expectation that the WP will stomp all over the NSP is probably fair. That is why I agree with Alex that we cannot use the actual vote counts as guide.

    SDP does have its own followers who consider the SDP as 1st choice, not merely as second best alternative after WP. In a propo rep system, the SDP will stand a better chance than NSP.

  29. 51 Rajiv Chaudhry 6 June 2011 at 12:23

    If we had the luxury of redesigning our electoral system from scratch (admittedly a pipe dream), I doubt we would choose either GRCs or SMCs.

    Arguably the best way to do it, in the context of present-day Singapore, would be to divide the country into 20 or 25 geographically distinct “towns” (with none of the hyphenation nonsense we see today). A township must be geographically distinct and cohesive. For instance, West Coast GRC at present stretches from Telok Blangah in the east to Tuas in the west and includes all the southern islands, including Jurong island and Sentosa. It is ridiculously large. See

    Tuas alone is large enough to form an independent, albeit sparsely populated, township.

    Each town would have its own local elections, independent of those in the other towns. The chairperson of the local town council would get a seat in the national parliament which could be made up of some 100 seats. A 20-25% weightage of municipal seats would arguably be sufficient to give voice to any common local issues that need national debate.

    The remaining seats can be voted for nationally and allocated on a proportional party basis. Party lists should be open, so that electors, in addition to voting for a party, can also vote for a candidate of their choice. This will inject an element of competition amongst candidates and give voters, rather than party bosses, a degree of control over who they wish to see representing them. This can be further tweaked in numerous ways, see

    The resultant legislature should, arguably, be a fairer reflection of the people’s political preferences and have a focus on larger, more national (“macro”) issues rather than municipal issues which are better debated at the local level.

    If anyone has any other “clean slate” ideas, it would be interesting to see them.

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