Smaller GRCs likely come next S'pore general election

Smaller GRCs likely come next S'pore general election
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE looks set for an imminent general election with more Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) that are smaller, and at least 12 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs).

The committee that reviews and redraws constituency boundaries ahead of a general election was formed two months ago, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament yesterday.

Mr Lee told the House that he had asked the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee in its review to consider the population shifts and housing developments since the last boundary redrawing.

He also asked it to consider having smaller GRCs, with each one to have an average of fewer than five MPs.

The committee will also consider having at least 12 SMCs, said Mr Lee. There are currently 12 SMCs and 15 GRCs, with an average of five MPs per GRC.

Analysts told The Straits Times that they expect to see the creation of more four-man GRCs and more seats in Parliament.

"We don't have natural boundaries like rivers or mountains, so there's 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," said political scientist Lam Peng Er of the East Asian Institute.

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

Political watchers like Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan did not rule out the continuation of six-member GRCs, but said that they would be harder to justify going forward.

Mr Lee first pledged in 2009 to reduce the size of GRCs from 5.4 MPs to five, as well as to increase the number of SMCs.

These changes were made before the 2011 General Election. Then, the number of SMCs was also raised from nine to 12.

Mr Lee's announcement, made in response to questions from Arthur Fong (West Coast GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, indicates that the next general election is around the corner.

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 to be at least nine days.

There is a Cooling-Off Day before voters cast their ballots on Polling Day.

In past elections, the whole process between the formation of the committee and Polling Day has taken between two and seven months.

Leading up to the polls in 2006 and 2011, the committee had taken four months to do its work before issuing its report.

While there is no fixed date for the election to be called after the report is submitted, it has taken as few as one day in the past.

Mr Lee said: "(The committee) is now in the midst of its deliberations and will make its recommendations to me when it is ready."

He also addressed questions from Mr Yee about the committee's composition and the minutes of its meetings.

Mr Lee added that "to the maximum extent possible, we will make sure that there is enough time elapsed" between the report and the calling of a general election, for people to read and understand the report.

But he said it was not possible to promise a minimum period between the publishing of the report and the calling of a general election, which Mr Yee had asked for.

The reason is that "it depends very much on the exigencies of the situation, and on when elections become necessary", Mr Lee said.

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