The Speaker of Parliament has declared that the seat of Hougang vacant following the explusion of the MP from his party.
So, for the first time in many years, we have a situation where a seat has become vacant and therefore, following the requirements of the Singapore Constitution which says:
Filling of vacancies
49.—(1) Whenever the seat of a Member, not being a non-constituency Member, has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election in the manner provided by or under any law relating to Parliamentary elections for the time being in force.
(2) The Legislature may by law provide for —(a)the vacating of a seat of a non-constituency Member in circumstances other than those specified in Article 46;(b)the filling of vacancies of the seats of non-constituency Members where such vacancies are caused otherwise than by a dissolution of Parliament.
The key phrase is “shall be filled”. Wikipedia’s definition of shall in a legal situation implies the mandatory nature of the intent or if we go with the Oxford English Dictionary it also carries the same intention. Hence, it goes without saying that there will be a by-election in the Hougang constituency. The big hairy uncertainty is when it will be called for, which is really in the decision sphere of the office of the Prime Minister who does not have a time constraint as to when it is to be called.
Let’s see what the options are:
a) That there will be a by-election before the 2016 general election because the ruling party is worried that they will not win and want to “teach” the Hougang voters a “lesson”.
b) That they are waiting for some screw-up on the part of the Worker’s Party who can then be pointed to as being unreliable and so the PAP tries to win the seat. (thanks to NP for this scenario).
c) That the PM will call for an election in the next few months after the annual budget has been passed.
The real issue here is that no matter what, we have a constituency that today does not have any official representation in parliament. Yes, Low Thia Khiang, the previous MP for Hougang before the 2011 elections has said that he will cover Hougang in the meantime even though he is the elected member of the Aljunied GRC. But he does not have the mandate to represent the Hougang voters in Parliament. Neither does the PAP “advisor” to Hougang. Sure, any party can go to Hougang and try to win the voter’s confidence and potential votes by doing stuff, but they don’t have a voice in Parliament.
The Hougang Town Council also does not have a head because the MP has vacated his seat. How does the town council function then? It cannot be left headless because the ruling party is worried that they’ll not win this seat in a by-election.
The Prime Minister made this apology at a 2011 rally:
These are real problems – we will tackle them, but I hope you will understand that when these problems vex you or disturb you or upset your lives, please bear with us, we are trying our best on your behalf. And if we didn’t quite get it right, I’m sorry, but we will try and do better the next time
Mr Prime Minister, if you really and honestly meant to be “trying our best on your behalf”, you have to call for the by-election immediately, no ifs, no buts, no delays. Stop the pussy-footing being undertaken by some of your PAP MPs about this. Remember, you work for us, no the other way around.