GE2020 explainer: What is an NCMP and what do they do?

Daniel Goh is a member of the Workers' Party, who is serving as a Non-constituency Member of Parliament of the 13th Parliament of Singapore.
PHOTO: Facebook/danpsgoh

MP, Minister, NCMP. These are terms that you may hear tossed about during election season, or during any parliamentary session for that matter.

We understand that it can be confusing since they do all sound pretty similar.

And yes the quick answer is that not all MPs are made equal.

If you are a first-time voter or just someone who isn't all that familiar with Singapore politics, don't let all these terms scare you. We are here to break it down and layout the deets, to help you get prepped for the impending election.

In this article, we look at what exactly is an NCMP.


What is an NCMP and what do they do?

An NCMP is a Non-constituency Member of Parliament. And as the name suggests, they don't have specific constituents that they look after, unlike elected members of parliament (MPs). They are also always members of the opposition.

Other than that, NCMPs, like MPs, debate and express their opinions on issues in Parliament and they have the same voting rights as MPs in parliament.

This was not always the case.

Before the most recent amendments made to the NCMP scheme in 2016, NCMPs had limited voting rights and were not allowed to vote on the following issues:

  • Amendments to the Constitution
  • Supply and money bills
  • A motion of no confidence in the Government
  • Removal of the President from office.

How does one become an NCMP?

The eligibility requirements for candidates to become an NCMP are the same as an elected MP.

However, all NCMPs are opposition party members who ran during the general election but did not win.

The NCMP seat is usually offered to the losing opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes among the losers at the general election, aka the ones who lost by the smallest margin during the previous general election.

They must also have obtained at least 15 per cent of the total number of votes in the constituency they contested for.

If the best "loser" was from a GRC contest, the group of candidates can nominate anyone from amongst them to take the NCMP seat or seats.

Opposition members who are offered the NCMP seat can also choose to decline the seat. In this case, it would be left empty or the party the candidate belongs to may try to field an alternative candidate.

This occurred in 2016 when Workers' Party (WP) member Daniel Goh was elected as an NCMP after Lee Li Lian declined the seat.

When was NCMP first introduced?

The NCMP scheme was first introduced in 1984. Then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew proposed to allow the representation of a minimum of three opposition MPs in Parliament as the presence of NCMPs would help younger Singaporeans learn about what the opposition is capable of doing.

It was also a chance for younger MPs from the People's Action Party to hone their debating skills whilst acting as a check and balance against governmental misconduct, according to Lee.

How many NCMPs are there?

Currently, there must be a minimum number of 12 opposition members in Parliament. This number includes both MPs and NCMPs.

According to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, this is a reasonable number given that at least 30 per cent of voters vote against the government in any election.

If the opposition wins less than 12 seats, the highest-scoring losers will be appointed as NCMPs to make up for the shortfall. Hence the number of NCMPs will be 12 less the number of elected opposition MPs.

There can also only be a maximum of two NCMPs from one GRC and no more than one NCMP from an electoral division that is not a GRC.

How has the NCMP scheme changed over the years?

When the NCMP scheme was first introduced in 1984, it allowed for a minimum of three opposition members in Parliament.

This minimum number was increased to nine in 2010, and subsequently 12 in 2016.

Previously, the number of NCMPs was required to be declared by a presidential order after each election, but this obligation was removed in 2010.

Does an NCMP get paid and can they hold another jobs?

An NCMP receives $28,900 annually, 15 per cent of an MP's annual allowance, and previous and current NCMPs have continued to work at their day job while attending parliament sittings.

However, after the 2015 election, WP's Lee Li Lian declined an NCMP appointment as she said it was not possible to be a full-time NCMP and it would also be unfair to future employers if she took leave monthly for parliamentary commitments.

Fun facts about NCMPs

1. There have only ever been three NCMPs in any one Parliament

Even though the minimum number of opposition members has increased over the years, there have only been a maximum of three NCMPs in any one Parliament, thought this might change with the last amendments to the NCMP scheme.

2. Only four opposition parties have ever been offered an NCMP seat

These opposition parties were WP, Singapore United Front, Singapore Democratic Alliance and Singapore People's Party.

The Workers' Party also had the most number of candidates taking up NCMP seats among all the opposition parties in past elections.

3. Only one NCMP has ever become an elected MP

This distinction belongs to WP's Sylvia Lim. She was an NCMP from 2006 to 2011 before she was elected as an Aljunied GRC MP during the 2011 election. 

Are you a first-time voter or perhaps just not all too familiar with what happens during a general election? Click here to read everything you need to know about GE2020.

trining@asiaone.com