Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing revealed on Monday (6 Jan) that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) has yet to complete its deliberations on how the constituencies in Singapore should be carved up for the next electoral term.
Workers’ Party (WP) secretary-general Pritam Singh had asked the Government whether the EBRC has completed its deliberations and when the EBRC report will be released to the public.
Responding on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Chan – who serves as second assistant secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party – said in a written reply: “When the EBRC has completed its work, the report will be presented to this House and released to the public.”
The EBRC is responsible for altering the boundaries of constituencies prior to each election. The formation of the committee marks the first formal step towards the next General Election (GE).
For the next GE, the EBRC has particularly been tasked to reduce the average size of group representation constituencies and increase the number of single-member wards. This likely means that the electoral map will be altered significantly.
Opposition parties will need to wait for the EBRC to release its report to find out how the boundaries have changed and decide which wards to target.
In the past three GEs, the EBRC has taken between two to four months to complete the review. The time between the release of the EBRC’s report and polling day has ranged from as little as 17 days to as long as six months, in Singapore history.
The Elections Department announced the formation of the EBRC on 4 Sept, signalling that the next GE is imminent. The Government, however, admitted that the committee was formed on 1 Aug 2019 – a month before it was announced – when Mr Singh pressed the Government to provide an update on when exactly the EBRC was formed in Parliament.
Mr Singh has been consistently questioning the Government for details on the steps that precede the calling of the GE for several months now.
In February this year, he asked PM Lee in Parliament whether the EBRC had been formed. Asserting that it is “a waste of Parliament’s time, and bordering on an abuse of process” for parliamentarians to have to keep filing questions to find out whether the EBRC has been formed or not, Mr Singh asked the Government whether it could announce the formation of the committee when it is convened.
He also asked whether the EBRC could provide a report explaining why it adjusts boundaries in the manner it has and provide reasons for its decisions on creating new wards, absorbing single member wards into group representation constituencies and such.
Responding on behalf of the PM, Mr Chan said then that the EBRC had yet to be formed. He added that the EBRC should be allowed to “focus on its work professionally, away from unnecessary media attention or public pressures” and promised that “there will be sufficient time” from the release of the EBRC report to polling day for parties to prepare.
In July, Mr Pritam asked PM Lee once again whether the EBRC had been formed and when the PM intends to establish the committee if it has not yet been convened.
Responding on behalf of his party leader yet again, Mr Chan said on 8 July: “The Prime Minister has not yet appointed the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee.” He did not answer Mr Pritam’s question on when the PM intends to establish the committee.
Mr Chan’s reply in July was taken by many to mean that the next election – which must be held by April 2021 – was not on the horizon. It was later revealed that the committee was convened mere weeks after Mr Pritam’s last parliamentary question on the matter.
It is widely expected that the next general election, which must be held by April 2021, could be held as early as the first half of this year, sometime after Budget 2020 which is scheduled to be delivered on 18 Feb.