What next for the NMP scheme?

What next for the NMP scheme?

To some, they have been a power for the good - non-partisan experts in their field who have contributed to better policymaking. To others, they seem glorified lobbyists working a system that enables them to have a say in the halls of power without being democratically elected.

They are Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs).

Love them or loathe them, these special MPs, who first came to Parliament in a scheme launched in 1990, have made their mark in many ways.

In contrast to elected MPs, they get around $2,000 a month to help defray administrative costs, and without that buttress of financial support, a key driver is a passion to further a view that might help make Singapore a better place.

Witness law don Walter Woon, who set the bar high for his nominated chamber mates by getting a Private Member's Bill to become public law: the Maintenance of Parents Act, passed in 1995.

But it has been over two decades since NMPs emerged on the political scene, amid just a tiny number of opposition members in Parliament, and a ruling People's Action Party seemingly invulnerable and desiring outlets for alternative views to be debated in the House.

Since their introduction, there have been a total of 65 NMPs. And their existence became permanently enshrined in 2009 when the Constitution was amended to remove a clause requiring every new Parliament to decide if it wanted to share the House with non-elected members.

But that was an NMP-heyday of sorts - then came the 2011 General Election and, suddenly, there were more opposition members in Parliament.

Three years on, some political watchers also point out that the opposition is also emerging as a more viable outlet for those with views contrary to those of the ruling party.

Amid this change came figures on Wednesday, showing a drop in the number of people applying to be in the next batch of NMPs. Only 36 put their hats in the ring for the nine positions, a big drop, percentage-wise, from 50 in 2011, and 46 in 2009.

With the evolving political landscape, some might wonder: Have NMPs outlived their usefulness?

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