The latest changes to the electoral boundaries ahead of the next general election are fair and have kept the playing field level all round, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said.
"The incumbents are the ones who have the most disruption from any redrawing of boundaries because they are the ones who actually have been working the ground," he said in reply to questions from reporters at a constituency event in Punggol West yesterday.
"In the opposition-held wards, there have been no changes, so actually they face the least disruption.
"If you want to talk about fairness and all these kinds of things, I think the playing field is level, if you do your work on the ground consistently," Mr Teo added.
His comments come a day after the Government released the report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. There will be a rise in the number of MPs from 87 to 89, and they will come from 16 group representation constituencies (GRCs) and 13 single-member constituencies (SMCs).
There will also be six four-MP GRCs, up from two; eight five-MP GRCs, down from 11; and the same two six-MP GRCs.
The changes were milder than some had expected: Some 19 per cent of voters find themselves in a new constituency, fewer than the 30 per cent in 2011. The boundaries of Workers' Party-held Aljunied GRC, Hougang SMC and Punggol East SMC also remain intact.
While many analysts said the latest changes kept the playing field level, several WP members have criticised the fact that Joo Chiat SMC, which it lost to the People's Action Party by 388 votes in 2011, has been absorbed into Marine Parade GRC. Moulmein-Kallang GRC, where WP had stood, is also no more, having been carved up into Jalan Besar GRC and three existing GRCs.
Asked about the changes, Mr Teo said: "When the Prime Minister says that he wants to create more smaller GRCs, four-man GRCs, and more single (seats), there's bound to be some redrawing and recarving. I would look at the overall picture rather than specific instances.
"I suppose if you wanted to have more four-man GRCs, Aljunied could have become a four-man GRC. But the committee didn't touch it," he said, noting that some other five-man GRCs were resized.
The committee of five civil servants, chaired by Mr Tan Kee Yong, the Secretary to the PM, was asked to reduce the average number of MPs in a GRC from five to below five, and to have at least 12 SMCs. The committee said the changes took into account population shifts and new housing developments.
Mr Teo added that his Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC has had to cope with new boundaries at every general election because it has been growing at the fastest pace islandwide.
Asked about criticisms of gerrymandering at another event, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said most of Moulmein-Kallang GRC had in fact been reconstituted as Jalan Besar GRC. The new GRC is also broadly similar to the Jalan Besar GRC that existed prior to 2011, he added.
The boundaries signal that the general election is around the corner, and yesterday several MPs were also joined by potential candidates at constituency events.