Workers’ Party (WP) member Yee Jenn Jong has highlighted the difficulties opposition parties face in preparing for elections, given the typically short time frame between the release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) report.
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) – after the EBRC report is released, the President dissolves Parliament and issues the Writ of Election.
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 Government announced last year that the EBRC was formed in August 2019, signalling that the next GE is imminent. Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing revealed in Parliament on Monday (6 Jan) that the committee has yet to complete its deliberations.
In a Facebook post published on Wednesday (8 Jan), Mr Yee pointed out how the typically short duration of time between the release of the EBRC report and the calling of the GE gives opposition politicians very little time to sufficiently prepare for an election.
Sharing that opposition politicians typically only get two or three weeks to get prepared, Mr Yee highlighted the difficulties in preparing election materials, engaging the services of contractors, finding running mates and getting themselves known to constituents in such a short amount of time.
Referring to Minister S Iswaran’s recent comment that it is simply a “convergence” or “coincidence” that the Government’s anti-fake news law is predominantly invoked against opposition politicians, Mr Yee said:
“To borrow a recently used phrase from a Minister, I would say that that is a convergence, some might say an unfortunate convergence, or coincidence that when the EBRC is done with their work, the GE will be swiftly called. In the past it has even been as short as 1-2 days after the publication of the EBRC report.
“That leaves anyone interested to contest with just 2-3 weeks to prepare, including printing tens of thousands of flyers, hundreds or even thousands of posters and getting yourself known to tens of thousands or even over 100,000 constituents in a constituency.
“How does one prepare and print flyers when boundaries are not known and constituencies can disappear? How do you find contractors and put them on standby to help with the logistics when you do not know the date suitably in advance? How does one find running mates for the constituencies when constituencies are not known?”
Echoing speculation that the election will be called shortly after Budget 2020, which has been scheduled for 18 Feb, Mr Yee added: “It will be a coincidence that the EBRC will take a longer time this time but will finish just after Budget 2020. And surely a convergence that Budget 2020 will have lots of goodies in it.”
Speaking from experience, the former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) also lamented that some of the most hotly contested wards would most likely disappear in time for the next election.
Mr Yee contested Joo Chiat Single Member Constituency (SMC) under the WP ticket in the 2011 General Election and lost the ward to the ruling party’s Charles Chong by just a hair of votes, earning a vote-share of 48.99 per cent.
Joo Chiat SMC, which had been a single member ward from 1997 to 2015, was subsequently absorbed into Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC) ahead of the 2015 General Election.
Mr Yee said: “It is also a coincidence that some of the most fiercely and closely contested constituencies in the preceding GE will disappear or become badly dissected. It is a coincidence that Joo Chiat SMC was taken away in 2015 when the chief considerations are population changes and housing developments.
“What demographics and major housing changes were there in Joo Chiat from 2011 to 2015? It was also goodbye to Eunos GRC, Cheng San GRC, Braddell SMC and several others after a closely fought prior GE.”