Singapore—After Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Monday (Jan 6) that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) had not yet completed its deliberations on how the constituencies in Singapore should be drawn up for the next electoral term, analysts are saying that the next General Election (GE) is unlikely to be held in the first quarter of this year.
Opposition leader Pritam Singh had asked in Parliament. if the ERBC’s deliberations had been completed and if its report would be made public.
On behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Chan, the second assistant secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party, had replied, “When the EBRC has completed its work, the report will be presented to this House and released to the public.”
On September 4 of last year, the Elections Department announced that the EBRC had been formed on August 1. The forming of the ERBC is widely understood to be the first step toward the next election, and in the past three elections, the ERBC took between two and four months for completing its review.
But now, more than four months after the ERBC was formed, there is still no indication as to when Singaporeans will next troop to the polls.
PM Lee had asked the ERBC to decrease the size of wards with multiple seats, or GRCs, and to increase single-seat constituencies.
While the current administration has until April 2021 to hold the next election, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has hardly ever waited until the end of their 5-year term for calling for the next election.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Chong Ja Jan as saying that Mr Chan’s reply that the ERBC has yet to complete its work could mean that PAP needs more time to get ready for the possible boundary changes in constituencies.
The SCMP report says that several observers it spoke to for This Week in Asia still believe that the GE will be scheduled for shortly after the first quarter—most likely in April or May, while a smaller number believe that the elections could be held in either August or September, just like the most recent one.
Other analysts believe that Ramadan and the school holidays could affect the timing of the elections, as well as the announcement of the national Budget and its attendant perks, which is scheduled for February 18.
What may happen is a GE in August or September, which would work well for the PAP, as the country’s independence day and National Day Rally are times when satisfaction ratings are generally high.
The SCMP report notes that the GE may be called later rather than sooner to make way for one particular law —the foreign interference bill, which is yet to be tabled— to get passed first.
K Shanmugam, the country’s Home Affairs and Law Minister, had presented an argument for such a bill, in the light of foreign governments interfering in other countries’ elections.
Law professor at the Singapore Management University Eugene Tan says he believes this bill would be passed before the next GE is called. -/TISG