Having race requirements in elections is a form of racial politics

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We should stop obsessing about racial representation in electoral politics. Trying too hard to ensure “balance” in outcomes carries a very heavy price: tampering with the democratic process until it loses its democratic-ness.

It’s like wanting market competition but demanding that all sellers stick to predefined market shares. The two objectives are contradictory and mutually exclusive.

In arguing for the abolition of group representation constituencies (GRCs), human rights group Maruah expressed its belief that candidates from racial minorities will not be seriously disadvantaged at the polls. “Maruah has faith in the political maturity of Singaporeans in voting for candidates who can best represent them in Parliament rather than based on purely communal grounds,” it said in a recently-released paper, the second in its Electoral Reform Campaign series.

It found basis for this faith in the historical record: “There was [sic] also many ethnic minority MPs in Parliament prior to the introduction of the GRC system, and then won in SMCs [single-member constituencies].”

Likewise, the report recalled that “Mr Chiam See Tong argued during the 1988 Parliamentary debates that the PAP’s [People’s Action Party’s] rationale for introducing the GRC system did not match up with the empirical evidence, as ethnic minorities had not previously struggled to gain representation in the legislature.”

However, the main thrust of Maruah’s paper was not on the question of racial representation, but that GRCs have many inherent flaws, making the whole contraption worthy of the scrapheap.

  • The law of large numbers operates in GRCs to favour disproportionately the most popular party — in our present context, the ruling PAP;
  • GRCs provide an excuse to avoid by-elections;
  • Permits ‘free riders’ — unattractive candidates who get into parliament on the coat-tails of better-regarded candidates;
  • Risks reducing minority-race representation to tokenism.

All the above have been aired previously and I believe many Singaporeans share Maruah’s dim view of GRCs. My own negative view of GRCs has been expressed several times in previous articles; I would abolish them if I could. Here, I won’t go into what I’d like to replace them with — I don’t want to add length to this article — but I will do so at a future date.

On the question of GRCs reducing racial-minority candidates to tokenism, this stems from the requirement that at least one member of every party’s GRC slate of candidates must belong to a predefined minority group. This entrenches a race-based view of candidates. Maruah asked if it was creating the very problem it was intended to solve — a very good question indeed.

“At the end of the day, the GRC system is a quota system,” said Leon Perera, the lead author of the paper, at the press conference on 19 August 2013.

Fail-safe

And so I was perplexed when Maruah, in an afterthought to arguing for scrapping the GRC system in favour of 100% SMCs, unveiled an even more rigid scheme to ensure minority-race representation. It came with a suggested two-percentage points variance from each minority’s share of the population — absurdly tight, in my opinion. Granted, Perera said that it was meant as a “fail-safe mechanism for redress should ethnic minorities be significantly under-represented” after an election. However, just having it in place will perpetuate a race-based view of political candidates. And it looks no less than a quota system too.

What they proposed was this:

In any electoral system that is uniformly composed of single-member constituencies (with a first-past-the-post voting system implied),

1.  Every party contesting the elections would be required to achieve racial balance in its slate of candidates;

2.  After the electoral results have been declared, the proportion of ethnic minority candidates would be calculated;

3.  If a minority’s share of winning candidates is less than “fair” (meaning more than two percentage points below its share of the population), then one or more “best losers” (i.e. losing candidates with the highest number of votes) belonging to this racial group would be automatically co-opted into Parliament to make up to the needed proportion.

4.  Maruah proposed that these co-opted MPs have full voting rights just like outright-winner MPs.

I am pretty close to being horrified at such a scheme. Crucially, the “fail-safe” plan has the same drawback as GRCs when it comes to minority race candidates. Accusations of tokenism will still be made, especially if losing minority-race candidates get into parliament through the back door — which is what compulsory co-opting will be seen as. Criticism of parliament being unrepresentative of the democratic will will still be valid.

No way to square the circle

There is no system that is going to guarantee racial or ethnic representation to a close approximation of the demographic profile of a country without intruding into democratic freedoms. The better, if counter-intuitive, route to take is an indirect one: to do everything possible to reduce race-consciousness in society. It is when voters pay little attention to a candidate’s race or ethnicity, that by statistical chance alone, you will get a facsimile of society’s rainbow in parliament.

In such an event, the resulting minority MPs are in parliament on the strengths of their own electoral appeal, not because they have had a lubricated passage. In turn, when they succeed as representatives of their constituents, their example will further erode race-consciousness. It produces a virtuous cycle.

By contrast, to keep designing ever more elaborate schemes to ensure racial representation with exactitude, is to perpetuate race-consciousness. It works against the real solution.

In any case, the rigidity of our categories is obsolescent. Our society is one that is seeing more and more inter-racial and inter-ethnic marriages with their resulting offspring. Our open-door policy on immigration is bringing in new citizens who don’t quite fit into our Chinese-Malay-Indian pigeonholes. As citizens, they are entitled to stand for election too. Are we going to add to the categories? Tinker with the rules? Write in more submodules to the existing certification programme?

I have always thought it quite offensive that people should submit themselves to have their race certified by some impersonal board. It’s nearly as bad as demanding that women should go for a gynaecological examination to prove that they are female before they can stand as election candidates in gender-quota’d elections. Would you implement the latter?  If not, why implement the former?

Overall, my view on all this is a simple one. In dismantling GRCs, we should just forget about race requirements.

Like Maruah, I have quite a lot of confidence that Singaporeans do not give much weight to race in choosing their leaders. We only think the risk of people voting along race lines is high because the present government says so. But let’s not overlook the fact that they say so mostly because (a) it is in their interest to find reasons for keeping GRCs, and (b) Lee Kuan Yew has (through his own personal history of fighting Malaysia’s Malay-based UMNO party) a very race-coloured view of the world.

Let’s take a deep breath, have some faith in ourselves and scrap those straitjackets.

41 Responses to “Having race requirements in elections is a form of racial politics”


  1. 1 Janice 24 August 2013 at 12:20

    “The better, if counter-intuitive, route to take is an indirect one: to do everything possible to reduce race-consciousness in society”

    Fully agree with this. But unlike countries like the States where (nearly) everyone speaks English, for as long as we have four official languages with each group learning their own in separate racial enclaves that race-consciousness will always be engrained deeper. What would help, I feel, would be for everyone to learn each other’s languages in school as non-examinable subjects.

  2. 2 The 24 August 2013 at 14:41

    As usual red herrings. The GRC was introduced after Mah Bow Tan and Ng Pock Too were voted out. It is meant to smuggle in weak candidates on the coat-tail of heavyweight ministers. The racial angle is just so much bull.

    But the electorate has matured. Now, even ministers are no longer the anchors they used to be.

    • 3 yuen 24 August 2013 at 19:55

      Ng Pock Too and Mah Bow Tan lost in 1984 against JB Jeyaretnam and Chiam See Tong, who were incumbent MPs in Anson and Potong Pasir; I dont consider their loss as indication that they were weak candidates, merely that their opponents were strong

      the specific political consideration raised by LKY at the time of GRC introduction was opposition parties putting up Chinese candidates against PAP minority candidates, hoping to benefit from the electorate being majority Chinese; now that opposition parties are much stronger, the small % benefit, assuming it still exists at all, would seem to be quite insignificant

      • 4 The 25 August 2013 at 10:24

        Remember the front-page headline? “Mah bows out, Pock Too too!” The newspaper was belatedly recalled, but JBJ managed to get a copy.

        Yes, they were considered strong candidates by the PAP. Mah with his many “A”s against Chiam’s many credits – yet he lost. The intent of the GRC is/was still the same – to get in candidates who otherwise cannot get in – whether you deem them strong or weak.

        Would Tin Pei Ling be able to get in via a SMC?

      • 5 The 25 August 2013 at 10:26

        You know that the “racial” consideration cannot be true. JBJ himself proved it. He’s a minority, yet he won big. And what about Michael Palmer?

      • 6 Chanel 25 August 2013 at 14:31

        Yuen, going by your logic Jeyaretnam wouldn’t have won Anson because he was of a minority race. The oft pap cited excuse of GRC bringing minority candidates remains a bullshit

      • 7 yuen 25 August 2013 at 18:01

        > Yuen, going by your logic Jeyaretnam wouldn’t have won Anson because he was of a minority race.

        whose “logic” are you referring to? I said specifically Jeyaretnam was a strong candidate compared to Ng Pock Too

        as a political tactic, the need to find enough minority candidates had been a logistic issue for some opposition parties, and they occasionally resorted to “borrowing” from other parties; whether this produces enough electoral benefit for PAP is uncertain

  3. 8 ape@kinjioleaf 24 August 2013 at 15:47

    I used to believe that the electorate has matured. I have doubts now after volunteering in grassroots, in a mature estate where residents are mostly pre-1965 born. It’s not that they have doubts about the MPs capability but they worry about language barrier.

    • 9 Chanel 25 August 2013 at 14:32

      Then how did Jeyaretnam win in the 1980s when the language barrier was far worse??

      • 10 yawningbread 25 August 2013 at 17:11

        Actually, we don’t have to rely only on the example of J B Jeyaretnam. Way back in the 1950s and early 1960s when the PAP was not the dominant party and had to fight hard against many other parties, candidates such as Ahmad Ibrahim, Othman Wok, S Rajaratnam or E W Barker prevailed in elections. We didn’t have GRCs then, only SMCs. We forget them today because they were PAP men, and we conflate them with the current crop of PAP politicians who get easy passage into parliament via GRCs. But that pioneer batch had to fight very hard for every single vote versus multiple opponents (i.e. constituencies often had 3 or 4 parties contesting).

        Yet they prevailed. I think we shortchange ourselves to think that unless we have elaborate schemes, minority representation would vanish. Those early examples, coming from a time when people here spoke no common language except bazaar Malay, disprove it.

      • 11 Tan Tai Wei 25 August 2013 at 17:40

        David Marshall, Singapore’s first Chief Minister, was a Jew.

      • 12 D 26 August 2013 at 09:21

        Is it worth pointing out, JBJ, who obviously was a minority race candidate, came into parliament at a by election. A by election that arguably wouldn’t have been called under the GRC system

      • 13 ape@kinjioleaf 26 August 2013 at 12:56

        I’m aware of JBJ and many others mentioned by Alex who won the election without GRC. Malayu was perhaps the common language that helped the minority candidates communicate with the Chinese electorate.

        I have doubts now doesn’t mean I’m for GRC. I’m of the opinion that any candidate should be capable of running on their own merits and not riding on the coattails of any heavy weights. The current system of GRC and grassroots ‘support’ has made things so easy for the ruling party that I think is making the PAP MPs complacent.

        Sorry Alex, I’ve digressed.

      • 14 Janice 26 August 2013 at 23:17

        To Chanel: People spoke bazaar malay back then. The older generation still do today. Ever seen/heard an old Chinese person talking to his Indian peer of the same age who were not English educated? They usually speak in Malay with hokkien thrown in.

        To yawningbread: Ahmad Ibrahim, Othman Wok, S Rajaratnam – Any idea on the racial composition of their wards?

  4. 15 Savanna 24 August 2013 at 15:58

    I fully agree with you. Scrap the race and scrap GRCs. Can we look into a new democratic system? Have you heard of direct democracy and liquid democracy?

    As more and more of us gets highly educated, we should have our own say with regard to what policies we want. With the advent of internet, I believe the future lies in a new political system, away from representative democracy where we vote for a part-time MP to speak for us in parliament for a five year term, whether or not this person shares the same political ideology.

  5. 16 Joseph 24 August 2013 at 18:09

    Without any prompting, I believe it won’t take long for the PAP to realize that the GRC system may have served its useful purpose of self-preservation. In fact, it may have already started working on an alternative system of self-preservation.

    GE11 was the defining moment. The fall of Aljunied GRC brought home the stark reality that the GRC system is now a double-edged sword that could cut both ways. The convenient vehicle of packing a team of candidates that includes heavy weights and newbies to ride into Parliament is no longer so convenient. The stakes, along with the risks, may be getting too high for the PAP.

    The prospect of losing its two-third parliamentary majority may be even greater will become a reality sooner rather than later if the GRC system remains in place. All its takes is a further loss of 4 or 5 GRCs.

    As it stands however, the PAP does appear to still have the clear advantage. But the groundswell against its unpopular policies, present and future, is likely to tilt the balance of advantage. In which case, it is likely to rethink the GRC system without necessarily scrapping it entirely, minority race representation notwithstanding.

    • 17 The 25 August 2013 at 12:47

      Yes, the danger is there. Because of the clever device of multiple counting centres, they are able to know which precinct is pro or anti PAP (though they should not be able to know how an individual voted). Hence, they are able to gerrymender by shifting strong opposition precinct to a neighbouring constituency where the votes for PAP are relatively high. In trying to win most wards, they have to dilute these strongholds. The trade-off is that after a while, they will win most wards by just about 50-55% of valid votes. The danger here is that more wards will be touch and go – with strong opposition candidates, these wards may go to the opposition.

    • 18 Al 25 August 2013 at 20:56

      I agree with Joseph. Alarm bells have definitely sounded with the loss of Aljunied GRC. You can be sure the PAP is devising its next course of action in self-preservation.

      The GRC system, in its prime, had served PAP’s purpose – that of ensuring they win elections. It is a no-brainer that in a contest in any SMC, the difference in votes between the winner and the loser is that much more limited because of the smaller number of voters. The chances of losing in a SMC will obviously be greater. But if you were to group a few SMCs under a GRC, the corresponding increase in the number of voters will definitely equate with a wider margin of majority between the winner and the loser, thereby ensuring a more definite and easier win for PAP (on the basis that by and large, voters are still supportive of the PAP). It is for this reason that 3-man GRC became 4, then 5 and finally 6-man – for the bigger the voter base, the slimmer the chances of the opposition winning it.

      All other advantages then follow – weaker candidate riding on the popularity of stronger candidate; higher deposits payable, no by-election need etc.

      The need for minority representation, although valid, is just a convenient excuse for implementation of the GRC scheme. Yes, before the GRC, we had Malay, Indian & Eurasian PAP MPs beating their Chinese counterparts from the opposition parties. Think Sidek Saniff, Rohan Kamis, P Selvadurai, Abu Abbas Amin, JF Conceicao, Othman Wok, Rahim Ishak and many more.

      If another GRC falls to the opposition in 2016, you can bet there will be a thorough re-think of the scheme, tweak again perhaps to stifle the chances of the opposition.

  6. 19 octopi 24 August 2013 at 19:55

    Racial politics will never go away no matter what. I’m actually not against the idea of a racially balanced parliament. I’m against the GRC as a means to achieve this. The GRC is most probably an abuse of power and probably has very little to do with race and more to do with engineering a situation where the PAP is kept in power.

    Still, even though one can argue that Singaporeans will always vote some Malay MPs, or always vote some Indians, I’m not actually sure that the ones that enter parliament will have the same proportion as our population. I’ve become pretty skeptical of a lot of free market arguments in the last few years.

    The funny thing about race is that it’s the only category I can think of that you can mandate a quota. If you were to mandate a 50% female parliament, I’m sure there would be a great uproar. Similarly, if you were to mandate a representative from different social classes, it would be very difficult. Maybe one day they will find that gay people are maybe say 5% of the population, and mandate that 5% of MPs are gay. But I don’t imagine that will happen anytime soon.

    I can’t think of any country in the world which is “post racial”. Singapore seems to have managed the relationship between races well. Maybe there is something odious about putting your “race” on your IC, but it has enabled there to be quotas for HDB flats and the implementation of desegregation policies. It has done wonders for relationships between the three major races because it forces everybody to live together.

    I have never wanted Singapore to be a melting pot. That would mean that Singapore Chinese, Malay, Indians will cut ties with their heritage: it makes no sense to me at all.

    • 20 Fox 25 August 2013 at 07:16

      Actually, Canada and the UK are quite “post-racial” as far as I know. Minority candidates get elected regularly. People in either country tend to vote on the basis of party affiliation rather than the actual candidate.

    • 21 Duh 27 August 2013 at 12:01

      I think it is strange that for a country that focuses so much on meritocracy, one should assign ethnicity as a requirement for being a political candidate. This smacks of reversed racism. How is being a specific ethnicity (be it Chinese, Malay, or Indian) an index of political competence?

      I don’t think Singaporeans will vote someone into Parliament just by virtue that s/he is of the same ethnic origin without considering what the political candidate’s political agenda and abilities are. And I do not think it is right to assign ethnicity as a requirement for political reasons – so long as there is NO discrimination against any ethnic group from entering politics should suffice. PAP has set up more rules to discriminate against their opposing parties than for democracy’s sake.

      • 22 octopi 28 August 2013 at 13:43

        First I think we should at most be pretty ambivalent about how meritocracy is being practiced in our country.

        http://www.ipscommons.sg/index.php/categories/featured/104-good-meritocracy-bad-meritocracy

        Second, I look at the facts so that I don’t have to preface any of my sentences with “I don’t think”. So I went here, to the last pre-GRC elections held in Singapore and counted.

        http://www.singapore-elections.com/parl-1984-ge/

        Lo and behold: 5 Indians (parity), 10 Malays (underrepresented), 1 Eurasian (EW Barker) and 63 Chinese (overrepresented). And this was back in the day when you could pick any Tom Dick and Harry (Lee), put him in a white uniform, and he would win an election blindfolded.

        As for considering what the political agenda and abilities, you have to be joking. This is a country which has blindly voted for PAP every single time, until maybe 5 years ago.

        I don’t like the GRC any more than you do but I do think that the composition of the races is a problem. I just don’t approve of the GRC as the means of solving that problem. But it might not even be a big problem after the tide has turned against the PAP, because the GRC is a sword that cuts both ways.

      • 23 octopi 28 August 2013 at 13:47

        Also of no little significance: take note of where the Malay MPs get elected. They’re a lot of them in the East.

  7. 24 Tan Tai Wei 24 August 2013 at 23:24

    It was when JBJ had been, and was again getting much mass support at that GE in the predominantly Chinese constituency of Anson that LKY, at a final rally at Fullerton square, played what JBJ subsequently criticized as “racism”. LKY depicted a scenario of the opposition winning, and asked if voters would accept JBJ, and Indian, as PM. Probably a coincidence, but I don’t recall LKY telling us to be Chinese, or Indian, or Malay Singaporeans before that. And it is obvious that GRC was conceived with other intentions, the matter of racial representation, however valid, being more its rationalizing. As Kishore said not long ago on CNA, politicians had to be “cunning” (again a rationalizing of some of LKY’s questionable schemes?).

  8. 25 Hawking Eye 25 August 2013 at 08:11

    This is one of the feeblest of articles that has come from the stable of Alex Au. You don’t punch holes for the sake of punching holes. It is such an easy job to do.

    For now and the foreseeable future, minority representation is a must and the question is how do you ensure this? The GRC concept, on the whole, is a good one. It has sent and continues to send minority candidates into Parliament. But what irks many is that it has been made a convenient engineering tool for PAP to self-preserve, provide back door entry for its new high profile candidates to be put in parliament without being ” truly” elected based on individual merit and to redraw GRC boundaries to its advantage as and when the party deems it as necessary.

    A Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister once said that he is a Malay first and a Malaysian second. He probably made an unwise political statement and received stinging criticisms particularly from the non-Malays. He could have well been speaking the truth. Primordial instincts are in-built in man and cannot be easily shed off.

    You need representatives to speak on matters concerning you and your community like language, dialects, culture, social issues and the likes. Just imagine for a moment that all the MPs in parliament are non-Chinese and how are the Chinese interests can be articulated, protected and advanced?

    For race blindness to take full root and manifest itself, it will still take many more years. Until then ensuring minority representation is a must – a necessary evil, if you may say so. If Mr. Lee Kuan Yew (let us say he is few years younger) were to stand as an independent candidate in any part of Singapore, he would probably win even if the PAP or Opposition were to field its best candidate against him. What will be the outcome if our DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam were to do likewise? Just pause and think.

    Maruah has made some good suggestions on getting rid of GRCs and replacing it with alternative form of minority representation. We could provide valuable inputs to improve on it instead of bashing or stonewalling it.

    • 26 Duh 27 August 2013 at 12:09

      According to you, it is near impossible to vote for a Chinese MP who believes in justice and equality for Singaporeans and will ensure that ANY ethnic group will not be disadvantaged in his/her policies thereby creating a environment where individual cultures can flourish in Singapore?

      Why do you need a MP to specifically “look after” one’s ethnic culture? If the govt does not discriminate against any ethnic group, isn’t the preservation of one’s ethnic culture up to the people in that ethnic group themselves? Singaporeans should vote for a MP who follow our National Pledge (Major principle) and not fragment the nation along ethnic lines (Minor principle).

      PAP’s GRC is another example of social engineering inherited by LKY. I guess Daddy knows best? The ego of this one man knows no boundaries.

    • 27 GG 31 August 2013 at 13:31

      PAP MPs do not speak for their constituents let alone their community. Tell me when an Indian or Malay MP has ever spoken on Indian or Malay matters in Parliament. In fact they would feel very uncomfortable doing so, and wisely too. I think they see their role as selling government policies to their community.

      What the constitution should do is guarantee minority representation in government and the civil service.

  9. 28 Rogueeconomist 25 August 2013 at 19:00

    I share the opinion of many that the GRC system has flaws. But, I am troubled by the fact that democracies can have strong race-based politics. I am the most familiar with the United States, where Obama’s election really hasn’t changed the fact that to be elected to local political office there, it really helps to be the same skin color as the majority of your local electorate.

    Many critics of the GRC system belong to the ethnic majority in Singapore. I do not, but I pass for one very easily. As a result, I often witness people making open prejudiced comments about minorities, since they assume I belong to the majority. I respectfully submit that people who are openly of another race, or people who belong to the majority, do not easily notice these problems. Indeed, I don’t expect that it is frankly possible for the ethnic majority to realize how their dominance affects the lives of the minority, unless they go to another country where they are in minority themselves.

    We also have to remember that the Government’s policy has been to specifically demolish any racial concentrations throughout Singapore through HDB ethnic quotas. This implies that any candidate in most locations needs the support of the ethnic majority to win. If even a small percentage (say even 1 in 20) are prejudiced strongly against non-majority candidates, that could make the margin of difference in a close election.

    In short, I don’t like the GRC system… and yes, I’m not sure how effective it even is at protecting minority interests. But I need a lot more assurance that the interests of the minority will be protected than can be given at present by the sanguine assurances of ethnic majority critics. So the problem we must confront in a reform is: How can we ensure that minority politicians are elected with a real mandate to serve and represent their local constituents (which will include all races), while also serving as a national voice for their minority’s interests as well?

    By the way, yes of course there are always exceptional politicians who readily win support across racial lines. But we are asking a bit much of our electoral system to say that we expect all our minority politicians to be the equivalent of JBJ or Barack Obama, aren’t we? (whereas majority politicians would face no such difficulty)

    • 29 yawningbread 26 August 2013 at 13:19

      Would you equally be in favour of formal quota-like rules to ensure representation of other politically disempowered groups such as:

      1. 50% rule for female representation,

      2. rules to ensure LGBT representation matching their share of the population (which is about as large as the share of Indians in Singapore)

      3. rules to ensure representation of religious and atheist groups to same share of population?

      if not, why not?

      • 30 yuen 26 August 2013 at 14:03

        what about quotas for left handed people, people with different eye colours and bald people, and so on? surely we do not want them to feel discriminated against?

        seriously, Singapore had racial riots in the early days so race is arguably a more “sensitive” political issues than hair colour; whether electoral quotas improve things, and what form of quota system should apply, are debatable issues

        religious differences are also “sensitive” political issues, but this is a matter of choice rather than genetics, and category boundaries are harder to define, things are more fluid and slippery

      • 31 Hawking Eye 26 August 2013 at 23:10

        In Singapore’s political and demographic context, apportionment of representation has to be realistic and practical and ought to be focused on major blocks with miniscule interests groups (you have identified one or two of them) subsumed within the major blocks.

        Representation of vulnerable groups and can run into hundreds and bringing them within the loop will be futile. Take religious group for example. In Hinduism there are no less than 10 sub-sects, Islam about 5 to 6, Christianity about 6 to 7 and there are others like Taoism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism etc.

        The major blocks that merit highest consideration for representations are the majority-minority race groups and the male-female make-up of the population. I am all for 50% representation of females as many will.

      • 32 Rogueeconomist 27 August 2013 at 00:38

        Honestly, I’m not sure. The quota-based GRC system is in part a policy that only has some rationale given the conscious housing policy decision to systematically dismantle ethnic concentrations. In other democratic societies what often tends to happen is that people self-segregate by living near other people like them, and that is actually what ensures some degree of representation.

        Obviously this is not true for female representation (women are evenly distributed, but they are elected at far lower rates than men are) but if you look at other countries, on average minority groups of all sorts tend to be much more concentrated, and as a result, do manage to elect representatives more like themselves. There is a much lower chance of being elected if you aren’t similar to the majority in your area, whatever that may happen to be.

        Nonetheless, you have a valid point; objectively if ethnic minorities have protected status in the electoral system then one might as well say that women, LGBT, or other groups also should have protected status. I don’t have a good answer for you here, but I don’t think this should be framed as a debate between policy extremes (no protection for special groups, vs. protection for all special groups).

      • 33 How Much Diversity Will We Accept? 27 August 2013 at 09:32

        Touche’.
        A good point.
        We need to reflect upon this.
        Personally, I believe in diversity and the free debate of ideas.
        The alternative is to listen to grandfather stories and just follow blindly.

        No surprise to me that western civilizations have dominated human history since the invention of democracy in Greece.

      • 34 octopi 28 August 2013 at 14:06

        There is actually a very simple answer to your question. Switch over to proportional representation, and ditch first past the post. Then the party which wins 60% will have 60% of the seats. And the party will have to find 70% Chinese, 20% Malays and 10% to fill those seats. And this system can work without making elections less fair.

        Under PR, you can have as many quotas as you want.

  10. 35 Anon rHh5 26 August 2013 at 14:08

    I tend to agree that voting along racial lines is here to stay in the near future. If there’s no minority representation, the frustration of such groups can lead to dire consequences.

    In Australia, they’ve this system of ‘preferential vote’. If there’re 3 or more contestants, the person with lowest vote count can choose to ‘give’ his/her vote other contestant. So having the highest vote count does not necessarily means a win. The argument for this system is that groups with minority interest are represented – they are co-opt into the system by forming alliance. The flip side to it is there’s so many interest group contesting for election coming in 7 Sep and it was reported that magnifying glass will be issued on polling day as the printed fonts are small on the voting slip which is limited to a fix size. Even Wiki Leak founder in asylum can contest in the election….

    Maybe some tweaking of this system for SG?

  11. 36 Alan 26 August 2013 at 14:19

    What is exactly there to prevent them from saying that if no minority race candidates is ever elected in any GE, then a certain representation of our major minority races will be selected in the form of NMPs ? If they can do it for special interest groups, why can’t they do the same for the minority races ?

    Does this not expose the lie behind their cooked-up reasons for having GRCs in a GE ? If want to lie, they should make sure that they can’t be so easily rebutted just like that, isn’t it ?

  12. 37 jackjock 26 August 2013 at 17:57

    True enough but only in the pedantic sense

  13. 38 har nor 27 August 2013 at 04:48

    Kia see
    Kia soo
    Kia no votes
    As if sg chinese won’t patronise other races’ food stalls
    or as if dif races won’t consumed produces fm other races
    Such immature policies!

  14. 39 What Trust? 27 August 2013 at 12:48

    After reading the comments, it is quite apparent to me that PAP has indeed been very successful in its plans. While rooting for “One People, one nation, one Singapore” it has never allowed the people to move past the racial divide. That a “minority” candidate would not win was never an issue in the 60s and 70s. People were united but with its policy the PAP has firmly drawn the racial divide, which it manipulates to its convenience, where it deems fit. Quota for HDB flats and GRCs etc. I just wonder why there are no racial quotas for Government & Presidential Scholarships, for school and University places. Can any one explain that to me.

    • 40 Duh 28 August 2013 at 12:06

      As far as I know, there are no racial quotas for university entry. There is, however, foreign student quotas, which the universities have been very circuitous in answering directed questions about this.

      Though there are no racial quotas for university entry, it does not mean that racial representation is similar to ethnic percentages of Singaporeans. There are noticeable less male undergraduates of a certain ethnic group for example (I leave it to you to make guesses, no prizes for the right guess though). This shows that the ‘meritocracy’ system in Singapore is flawed in some way. ‘Meritocracy’, Singapore style, is not really what it is, for it ignores the family economic background’s impact on a person’s success. This was discussed in Singapore some time back about social mobility. If Singapore’s system was truly meritocratic, then social mobility should be high but in Singapore, it is not. It is like rich kids grow up to be taller because they had better nutrition – is this meritocratic?

  15. 41 Johnny Reb 5 September 2013 at 23:26

    I think you mean to say “Having race requirements in elections is a form of racism”.


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