Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Chan Chun Sing, has confirmed that no by-election will be called if a minority candidate in a GRC resigned to contest the Presidential Election. He was responding to a reference by opposition MP Pritam Singh to Madam Halimah Yacob. Madam Halimah is the Speaker of the House, as well as the minority candidate for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.
In his Speech Mr Singh said:
“…the very idea of race poses other considerations in certain cases of reserved elections involving public sector track or public sector deliberative track candidates. For example, in the case of Madam Speaker, should the Honourable Speaker decide to stand as a candidate, what happens to the very existence of the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, which by law requires a Malay MP as one of its political representatives in parliament? Should it be passed, does this Bill herald a new precedent in marked contrast to the scenario in Jurong GRC some years ago when the late PAP MP Mr Ong Chit Chung passed on? Does the Bill, and the prospect of reserved Presidential elections change the Government’s thinking on this question: Would a by-election be called in a GRC when the minority member of a GRC steps down to contest in a Presidential election? Can the Government set its position out on this matter in light of the introduction of reserved Presidential elections?” – Pritam Singh
In responding to Mr Singh, Mr Chan referred to Madam Halimah twice as ‘President’ to loud laughters from the House.
Mr Chan explained that the GRC system, which requires each team to include at least one member of a minority race, has been in place since 1988, and that it has two purposes.
First to ensure enough minority members in Parliament and secondly, to ensure no political campaign on issues of race and religion.
He noted that there are 25 minority MPs out of 89 – “more than what you’d expect proportionately from adding up the percentage of Malays, Indians and other minorities”.
“Even if we have one less, that is 24 out of 89, which is 27 per cent of Parliament,” Mr Chan said.