SINGAPORE: The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) on Friday (Jul 24) released its keenly-awaited report on new electoral boundaries, the clearest sign yet that the General Election may be round the corner.
In the report, which has been accepted by the Government, the EBRC recommends that the city-state be carved up into 29 electoral divisions, comprising 13 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) - up from 12 in the last election - and 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), a rise from 15 previously.
There are also changes to the sizes of GRCs: the five-member GRCs have been shrunk to 8 from 11 previously, while the four-member GRCs increased to 6 from 2 in the last election. The number of six-member GRCs remains the same at 2.
With the recommended changes, the total number of elected Members of Parliament (MPs) will be 89, up from the current 87.
According to the report, the new GRCs are Marsiling-Yew Tee, a four-member GRC, and Jalan Besar, a GRC which had previously existed but which was dissolved before the 2011 GE.
Moulmein-Kallang GRC - which currently includes two Cabinet Ministers, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim and Mr Lui Tuck Yew, as well as MPs Denise Phua and Mr Edwin Tong - has been dissolved, with the area now forming parts of Holland-Bukit Timah, Bishan-Toa Payoh, Tanjong Pagar and Jalan Besar GRCs.
The new SMCs are Bukit Batok, Fengshan and MacPherson - all three of which had existed as SMCs in elections prior to 2011.
But removed from the political landscape are Joo Chiat SMC, where Mr Charles Chong of the People's Action Party won a tightly-contested battle against the Workers' Party's Mr Yee Jenn Jong in 2011 with a majority of just 388 votes, and Whampoa SMC, where Mr Heng Chee How - Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office - beat the National Solidarity Party with 66.11 per cent of the vote.
THE NEW LANDSCAPE
The changes to the GRC sizes have been widely expected, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament on Jul 13 that he had asked the EBRC “to reduce the average size of the GRCs to below five", although there was some speculation that the six-member GRCs would have been scrapped altogether following his comments.
GRCs are unique to the Singapore political landscape – in each of them at least one candidate must come from a minority race.
The release of the report brings the nation a step closer to the next GE, which is widely tipped to take place in mid-September.
With the report made public, President Tony Tan can dissolve the current Parliament anytime, after which the GE must be held within three months. In the last GE, the committee’s report was issued on Feb 24, 2011, and Parliament was dissolved on Apr 19, 2011.
According to the report, 2,460,977 Singaporeans have registered to vote ahead of the next GE. This is an increase of about 110,720 electors from the 2,350,257 electors recorded in the 2011 Registers of Electors.
Of the five men on the EBRC, four remained from the 2011 committee, with only Mr Vincent Hoong not on this year's team. For 2015, the EBRC was formed by chairman Tan Kee Yong, Secretary to the Prime Minister; Dr Cheong Koon Hean, chief executive officer of the Housing and Development Board; Mr Tan Boon Khai, CEO at the Singapore Land Authority; Ms Wong Wee Kim, Chief Statistician at the Department of Statistics; and Mr Lee Seng Lup, head of the Elections Department.
VOTERS SHOULD SUPPORT CANDIDATES WHO BEST REPRESENT THEIR INTERESTS: PM LEE
Following the release of the report, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a note on Facebook saying that "wherever the boundaries may be drawn, MPs should serve the residents they represent to the best of their ability". "And voters should support the candidates or teams who will best represent their interests, both in the constituency and as the government of Singapore," he added.
The full list of electoral divisions is as follows:
1. Bukit Batok
2. Bukit Panjang
4. Hong Kah North
9. Potong Pasir
10. Punggol East
11. Radin Mas
12. Sengkang West
1. Chua Chu Kang
2. East Coast
3. Holland-Bukit Timah
4. Jalan Besar
5. Marsiling-Yew Tee
6. West Coast
2. Bishan-Toa Payoh
4. Marine Parade
5. Nee Soon
8. Tanjong Pagar
1. Ang Mo Kio
2. Pasir Ris-Punggol