Election on the cards; boundaries panel formed

Committee to review boundaries was formed two months ago; GRCs may be made smaller

A Radin Mas resident casting his vote on Polling Day in 2011.
A Radin Mas resident casting his vote on Polling Day in 2011. PHOTO: ST FILE

Expect a general election in the coming months.

The first step in the lead-up to an election - the formation of a committee to review constituency boundaries - took place two months ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament yesterday. Mr Lee said he had asked the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee to consider population shifts and housing developments since the last exercise in 2011.

He has also asked the committee to reduce the average size of a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to below five members, and to have at least 12 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs).There are currently 15 GRCs, with an average size of five MPs, and 12 SMCs.

Analysts told The Straits Times that they expect the redrawn electoral boundaries to be released in the weeks ahead, paving the way for an election to be called as early as September.

They cite the feel-good factor of Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations next month and the surge in goodwill towards the Government following founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's passing in March.

"The lines seem to converge on a September general election," Dr Tan Ern Ser of the National University of Singapore (NUS) said.

PM Lee's announcement yesterday was in reply to Mr Arthur Fong (West Coast GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong.

After the committee's report is published, the next stage in the lead-up to Polling Day is for Parliament to be dissolved and the writ of election issued.

The next step is Nomination Day, which must take place no earlier than five days and no later than one month after the writ is issued. Nomination Day is the start of the campaign period, which is required by law to be a minimum of nine days.

There is then a Cooling-Off Day, which falls on the eve of Polling Day when voters cast their ballots. In past elections, the duration between the formation of the committee and Polling Day lasted between two and seven months.

In the last two elections held in 2006 and 2011, however, the committee took four months to do its work before the report was published. The elections were then called within two months.

A total of 2.46 million eligible voters are currently on the rolls, a rise from 2.35 million in 2011.

The change in size of a GRC was signalled by Mr Lee as early as 2009 when he pledged to reduce the average number of MPs in a GRC from 5.4 to five, and to increase the number of SMCs.

These changes were introduced in the 2011 General Election, when the number of SMCs was raised from nine to 12.

There are now two six-member GRCs, 11 five-member GRCs and two four-member GRCs.

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan did not rule out the continuation of six-member GRCs, but said they would be harder to justify.

Analysts like Dr Lam Peng Er predict that there will be more four- member GRCs and more seats in Parliament, which currently has 87 elected seats.

Said the political scientist from NUS' East Asian Institute: "There are only so many ways you can slice the pie. Logically speaking, we should expect to see six-man GRCs becoming five-man ones, five-man GRCs becoming four."

Meanwhile, People's Action Party (PAP) and opposition activists alike saw Mr Lee's announcement as a signal to step up preparations for the general election.

Said PAP Ulu Pandan branch secretary Angie Ng: "If the election is not in September, then it might be in October or November."

But, she added: "The preparation for it started long ago."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline 'Election on the cards; boundaries panel formed'. Subscribe