Committee to review boundaries set up in preparation for next Singapore GE

Singapore's next general election must be held by April 2021.
Singapore's next general election must be held by April 2021.PHOTO: ST FILE

Analysts and MPs divided on Polling Day happening as early as next month or in May

The committee that reviews Singapore's electoral boundaries and divisions has been formed, officially kicking off a process that could see the next general election being held in a matter of months.

In previous elections, the interval between the committee's formation and Polling Day had ranged from two to seven months.

In a statement yesterday, the Elections Department (ELD) said the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (ERBC) has been directed to review the number and boundaries of the current electoral divisions, "taking into consideration significant changes... as a result of population shifts and housing development".

The number of eligible voters since the 2015 polls has swelled by 5.4 per cent to 2.59 million in April this year.

The EBRC has also been tasked to further reduce the average size of group representation constituencies, or GRCs, as well as create more single-member constituencies (SMCs) - a brief that would put into practice what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had spelt out in 2016.

The average size of GRCs has been reduced steadily from 5.4, following complaints that large ones make it harder for opposition parties to field the required candidates for a team to compete.

The average GRC size has shrunk from five in 2011 to 4.75 in the 2015 General Election. At the same time, the number of SMCs went up to 13 in 2015, one more than in 2011.

 
 
 

The ELD also said that the committee is in the midst of deliberations and will submit its recommendations in a report to the Prime Minister when ready.

Generally, the interval between the boundary report being made public and the dissolving of Parliament could be between one day and more than five months.

The next stage is Nomination Day, which must take place no earlier than five days, and no later than one month, after Parliament is dissolved and the Writ of Election issued.

Nomination Day is the start of the campaign period, which must be at least nine days, to be followed by Cooling-Off Day, which is the eve of Polling Day.

The ELD's announcement has sparked speculation on when Polling Day will be, with analysts and MPs divided on it happening as early as next month or in May, after the Budget.

If a similar timeline as the previous three elections is adopted, the next hustings could take place between November and next April.

Observers, however, noted that some periods are less likely.

They include most of November, when schools - typically used as polling stations - hold major examinations, and late December, when Singaporeans tend to go away on holiday.

 
 
 

Other improbable periods are Chinese New Year and Ramadan, as well as the Budget period, which is typically in February or March.

While it is the Prime Minister's prerogative to decide when to call an election, the polls must be held by April 2021.

Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh noted that the ELD did not state exactly when the EBRC was formed last month. As recently as July 8, he was told in Parliament, following his question, that the committee had not yet been formed.

"Nonetheless, the WP looks forward to the release of the EBRC's report," he told The Straits Times.

Yesterday, an ELD spokesman said the EBRC, chaired by Secretary to the Prime Minister Tan Kee Yong, was convened last month.

Asked when he expects the polls to be held, Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin said: "I have always thought it will be in the first half of next year. But I will not be unhappy if it is tomorrow. We don't burn the midnight oil."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2019, with the headline 'Committee to review boundaries set up in preparation for GE'. Print Edition | Subscribe