What will happen to Aljunied?

What will happen to Aljunied?
Aljunied GRC MPs (from left) Chen Show Mao, Sylvia Lim, Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, Low Thia Khiang and Pritam Singh at their town council office in Hougang.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Aljunied GRC may have undergone revisions under boundary changes ahead of the 2011 General Election, but political watchers doubt it will be significantly redrawn this time.

There is an expectation that opposition-held divisions will be left untouched. After all, the boundaries of opposition strongholds, such as Hougang and Potong Pasir, stayed mostly intact during several previous boundary exercises. This logic, by extension, would then also apply to Aljunied GRC - the first Group Representation Constituency to be helmed by the opposition Workers' Party (WP).

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan says: "The boundary changes must not only be reasonable and fair, but must also be seen as reasonable and fair."

Political analyst Bilveer Singh thinks Aljunied will be largely untouched. If Aljunied's boundaries are left intact, he says, "the party (PAP) will be able to concentrate its fire on all other areas and practise the politics of electoral containment".

In fact, PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen indicated in a recent interview with The Sunday Times that the PAP is unlikely to field ministers or potential office-holders there.

Said Dr Ng: "Why would we want to field somebody that we know has a higher chance of being rejected and deprive ourselves of an office-holder?

"Suppose you put five ministers in (Aljunied). Does that serve the purpose? Is it fair to other constituencies who have shown us greater support?"

Professor Singh adds that Hougang will also be kept largely the same "as it has become nearly impossible for the PAP to win back".

"By having Hougang SMC, you ensure one good WP candidate will be tied down there - currently Mr Png Eng Huat," he says.

In 2011, parts of the GRC's Aljunied-Hougang ward went to Ang Mo Kio GRC and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

In response, WP chairman Sylvia Lim noted at the time that the WP enjoyed "significant support" in the seven polling districts that Aljunied GRC lost to Ang Mo Kio GRC. But former minister George Yeo, who anchored the PAP team there, countered that the level of support in those seven areas was "about the same as neighbouring areas".

Aljunied GRC, as it exists now, had absorbed parts of the Kaki Bukit ward of Marine Parade GRC. That area had about 27 per cent Malay residents - higher than the national average of 14 per cent - who traditionally tend to vote for the PAP.

Emeritus Senior Minister and former prime minister Goh Chok Tong, an MP for Marine Parade GRC, has rebutted claims of gerrymandering. He says that while the PAP is thankful for strong Malay support, its support base also comes from Chinese and Indian voters.


This article was first published on July 19, 2015.
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