Singapore— The announcement on September 4 that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) was convened last month is generally perceived to mark the first step towards the next General Election.
And for the upcoming GE, some political analysts believe that the country is done with six-member group representation constituencies (GRCs), though changing the current system will take time.
The Straits Times (ST) reports that this is because voters no longer believe that bigger is better when it comes to GRCs.
The announcement concerning the convening of the ERBC included a portion that said the committee was given a term of reference by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to decrease the average size of these constituencies.
The average size of GRCs has decreased from 5.36 to 4.75, after PM Lee began to institute changes to the electoral system in the effort to make it reflect voters’ aspirations.
The ST quotes political observer Derek da Cunha as mentioning the likelihood of there being no more 6-member GRCs in the next GE, which is mandated to be held by April 2021.
The large GRCs were utilized first in 1996, the year that four of them were added. At this point, only two remain—Ang Mo Kiko and Pasir Ris-Punggol.
And it’s likely that these two will have one less ward by the next GE, effectively making them 5-member GRCs.
Bilveer Singh, a political scientist from NUS, says that younger voters who have an eye toward “justice, rightness” would approve of the move to cut the bigger GRCs, saying, “Having six members is loading the dice (in favour of the ruling party) and doesn’t make the PAP look good. PM Lee is equalising the playing field.”
Analysts also said, however, that it is not likely that 3-member GRCs will be restored either, the ST reported. Associate Professor Bilveer said he believes 3-member GRCs are “very risky and dangerous” for PAP, since it would mean a bigger number of total GRCs, with the ruling party not having a sufficient number of ministers to fill all of them.
On another note, the EBRC has also been asked to add to the number of single-member constituencies (SMC) of which there are now 13.
A decade ago PM Lee stated the usefulness of SMCs in allowing small parties to join the elections. More SMCs, he said, would also match the growing number of elected Members of Parliament, which has gone up from 84 to 89 from the time PM Lee came to power in 2006.
Dr da Cunha believes that if Bishan-Toa Payoh, Nee Soon and Tanjong Pagar become 4-member GRCs, this would create 3 new SMCs in areas where PAP dominates. “There might be a calculation by the Government that SMCs are also fertile ground for potential multi-cornered fights, thus splitting the anti-PAP vote.”
The ST report also quotes Workers Party’s Yee Jenn Yong, who said the move is a good one.
“Some GRCs have grown so big that people don’t feel an affinity for it. It is good to have smaller GRCs and SMCs to increase the level of competition.” -/TISG