Singapore will increase the number of elected MPs in Parliament by four, and do away with six-member group representation constituencies (GRCs) in changes to constituency boundaries announced yesterday, raising expectations that the next general election could be called within the next few months.
The changes are incremental in nature, with the largest ones taking place in the fast-growing north-eastern part of the island. In all, about 13 per cent of voters will find themselves in a new constituency, compared with the 19 per cent of voters affected by boundary changes ahead of the 2015 election.
Political analysts said the next election could be held as early as next month, or in early May or June.
The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee submitted its report to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday, and the Government has accepted its recommendations.
The number of Members of Parliament will go up from 89 to 93.
There will be 14 single-member constituencies (SMCs) and 17 GRCs, up from the current 13 SMCs and 16 GRCs.
A new four-member Sengkang GRC will be created by merging the former Sengkang West and Punggol East SMCs, as well as parts of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
In all, three SMCs have been taken off the map - Punggol East, Seng-kang West and Fengshan. The Workers' Party, which contested all three in the previous election, yesterday questioned their removal.
In their place are four new single seats, including Punggol West which will be carved out of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, and Yio Chu Kang from Ang Mo Kio GRC.
The mammoth six-member Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRCs, helmed by PM Lee and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, respectively, have both been trimmed to five-member GRCs. In all, there will be 11 five-member GRCs - three more than in 2015. The number of four-member GRCs remains six.
Two anticipated hot battlegrounds - East Coast GRC and West Coast GRC - have each grown to become five-member GRCs.
Key changes to electoral boundaries
• Number of MPs to go up from 89 to 93
• Four new SMCs: Kebun Baru, Marymount, Punggol West, Yio Chu Kang Three SMCs gone: Fengshan, Sengkang West and Punggol East
• New four-member Sengkang GRC makes up a total of six four-member GRCs, including Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC
• No more six-member GRCs: Ang Mo Kio GRC and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC become five-member GRCs
• 11 five-member GRCs, up from eight in 2015, including East Coast GRC and West Coast GRC, which absorb a ward each
East Coast GRC, which is expected to see a strong challenge mounted by the Workers' Party, has absorbed Fengshan. Meanwhile, the new Progress Singapore Party formed by former People's Action Party MP Tan Cheng Bock is tipped to contest West Coast GRC, which has absorbed polling districts from Chua Chu Kang GRC and Hong Kah North.
In keeping with recent practice, the boundaries of opposition-held seats - Aljunied GRC and Hougang - have remained intact.
The committee said it reviewed the electoral boundaries taking into account "current configurations, changes in the number of electors due to population shifts and housing developments".
Its recommendations continue reforms to the system that PM Lee had initiated ahead of the 2011 GE, to further reduce the average size of GRCs and create more SMCs.
The average number of MPs per GRC in the coming GE will be 4.65, down from 4.75 in the 2015 GE.
There are 2,594,740 voters heading to the polls, which have to be held by April 2021 - up from 2,460,484 in the 2015 election.
The committee, which comprises five senior civil servants, was formed on Aug 1 last year.
The next question is when Parliament will be dissolved, and the writ of election issued. In the last four elections, Parliament was dissolved between one day (2001) and 54 days (2011) after the report was released.
The hustings will be held amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Yesterday, Singapore announced more social distancing measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic and proposed that gatherings be limited to 250 people.
PM Lee had said on Thursday that the outbreak could continue for a year, and maybe longer. He also emphasised that the situation here remains under control, and the disease outbreak response level - currently at orange - will not be raised to red, the highest level.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday said the Covid-19 situation and its impact on the economy are likely to worsen, and ensuring Singapore can focus on overcoming the challenges is a major factor in deciding when to hold the general election.
Observers said mass rallies, a mainstay of past GEs, are unlikely to take place in the coming one, and online campaigning could feature prominently instead.