SINGAPORE: There will be more electoral divisions and no six-member Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) in the coming election, according to the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee’s (EBRC) report released on Friday (Mar 13).
The committee recommended the adoption of 31 electoral divisions, up from 29, with a total of 93 seats in Parliament, four more than the 89 in the House currently.
A new Sengkang GRC has been created with four seats, bringing the number of GRCs to 17, up from the current 16.
There will be 14 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs), one more than the current 13.
The Government has accepted the committee’s recommendations and will implement them in the next election.
This means that the next GE, which must be held by early April 2021, is likely to be called soon.
The next step is for President Halimah Yacob to dissolve Parliament on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s advice, a development that had taken between just a day and about two months from the release of the EBRC’s report in past elections.
In 2015, the report was released on Jul 24, a month before parliament was dissolved. Polling day was on Sep 11, 2015.
NEW SINGLE-MEMBER WARDS, NEW GRC
Four of the single-member wards are new – Kebun Baru, Marymount, Punggol West and Yio Chu Kang. Three SMCs have been wiped off the map: Fengshan, Punggol East and Sengkang West.
Both wards under the Workers’ Party – Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC – remain.
Of the 17 GRCs, six have four members and 11 have five members. The six-member GRCs – Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol – have been reduced to five members.
The East Coast and West Coast GRCs, which currently have four Members of Parliament (MPs), will have five seats.
The other five-member GRCs are: Aljunied, Jurong, Marine Parade, Nee Soon, Sembawang, Tampines and Tanjong Pagar.
Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, which currently has five MPs, will have its seats reduced to four.
Including the new Sengkang GRC, the other four-member GRCs are: Chua Chu Kang, Holland-Bukit Timah, Jalan Besar and Marsiling-Yew Tee.
Speaking to CNA on the sidelines of a Meet-The-People’s session on Friday evening, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean - who’s also MP for Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC, said it’s “not unexpected” for the GRC to have its electoral boundaries redrawn, due to the significant increase in voters there.
He added that the new boundaries mean that there will be more MPs to serve the residents.
“Although the boundaries have changed, our commitment to our residents remains the same. We continue to do our best to serve our residents,” he said.
“There is a positive aspect to the redrawing because ... the GRC has grown very, very large. So with more MPs, we hope to do even better in serving the needs of our residents."
When the formation of the EBRC was announced last year, ELD said that it had been asked to further reduce the average size of the GRCs and to have more SMCs.
In the next election, 79 candidates will stand in GRCs, working out to an average of 4.65 MPs per GRC. This is lower than the 4.75 MPs per GRC in the 2015 GE and the five MPs per GRC in 2011. The figure had peaked at 5.36 in 2001 and 2006 before falling in the last two elections.
In 2015, the majority of GRCs – eight – had five candidates, while there were six GRCs with four members each. Only two GRCs had six MPs each – Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol.
The GRC system was established in 1988 to ensure that the minority races will be represented in Parliament.
GRCs can have three to six MPs and at least one of them must be from a minority race. Moreover, the number of GRCs with a Malay MP cannot be more than three-fifths the total number of GRCs.
INCREASE IN ELECTORS SINCE 2015
It has taken the EBRC, a committee made up of five senior public servants, eight months to release its report since the committee was formed in August.
For each election, the committee considers population growth and shifts due to housing development.
The number of electors in the latest Registers of Electors as of Apr 15, 2019, is 2,594,740, an increase of 134,256 electors from 2,460,484 electors certified on Apr 7, 2015.
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On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore will be a “major factor” in deciding when the Government decides to call for elections.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion organised by the Straits Times and Business Times, Mr Heng said the elections have to be called before April next year so “we cannot deviate from that”.
“What we must do, is to create the conditions that will allow us to manage the situation to the best of our abilities. Looking at the global developments, I think the virus outbreak is likely to stay with us for longer,” he said.
It may get more challenging in the months ahead for the Government to deal with the COVID-19 situation, but “we need to be able to respond as fully as we can as one country, and as a people”, he added.
Additional reporting by Brandon Tanoto.