Ruling party parliamentarian Charles Chong has floated the possibility that three new Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) – namely, Punggol GRC, Sengkang GRC and Pasir Ris GRC – could be carved out by the recently convened Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) prior to the next General Election.
Speculation over how the EBRC will carve up the electoral wards has been rife, ever since the Elections Department (ELD) announced that the EBRC was convened in August.
The formation of the EBRC marks the first firm step towards the next General Election (GE) and precedes the calling of the election. In the past three General Elections (GEs), the EBRC has taken between two to four months to complete its review.
Political observers have noted that Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC could be divided into multiple wards since its voter count exceeds the maximum limit for a six-member GRC and since the ward is anchored by two heavyweight ministers – Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and labour movement chief Ng Chee Meng.
In an interview with the national broadsheet, Mr Chong said that its possible for three GRCs – Punggol GRC, Sengkang GRC and Pasir Ris GRC – to emerge out of the northeast. He said:
“Punggol estate, once fully developed, is so big it could sustain a five-man GRC. Sengkang is close to that size, and Pasir Ris estate is smaller, maybe a three-man GRC.”
Mr Chong added that he wants the EBRC to redraw the boundaries “sensibly, so we don’t have bits and pieces of different housing estates in a GRC” since “it was a bit ridiculous to have divisions like Punggol Central and Punggol South when none of them were actually in Punggol” between 2001 and 2015.
He said: “It would be good if constituencies were divided along natural boundaries – like bus services and police divisions – because that’s actually how infrastructure works. Otherwise, you might have a case when MPs have to deal with multiple authorities under different jurisdictions.”
Mr Chong, a veteran People’s Action Party (PAP) politician who has served seven terms in Parliament, currently represents Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC).
Punggol East SMC is not seen as a ruling party stronghold – in 2013, the Workers’ Party (WP) won the ward in a by-election. The People’s Action Party (PAP) wrested the ward back with a slim margin – 51.77 per cent of votes – in the 2015 General Election.
Today, Punggol East is one of the largest SMCs by voter population and is edging close to the maximum voter capacity for SMCs with 35,477 voters. Observers have said that the SMC could be swallowed up by the surrounding GRCs, especially if the three new GRCs are established in the northeast.