This post first appeared on Mapped Musing and the map described available here. We thank the author for allowing us to re-publish it.
Pulau Ujong. A name of utter unfamiliarity which would only make you think less than twice about passing it off as another one of those small offshore islands or islets that we would go to ‘war’ to protect our sovereignty over at all costs (and by ‘war’, what I really mean is the International Court of Justice).
Ironically, if you’re reading this from the Republic of Singapore, chances are, you’re on it. Pulau Ujong is none other than mainland Singapore. Intrinsically, knowing about the place we inhabit informs us of what it means to be Singaporean for how can we claim to be truly Singaporean if we are unaware of our local environment? Knowing about the spaces we live, play and work in from a geopolitical perspective also affords us several practical benefits in areas such as landuse planning and electioneering.
The political map of Singapore has evolved through the ages, reflecting differences in electoral systems, population densities, infrastructure and land use. The 12th Parliament of Singapore consists of 87 elected MPs, each representing a different constituency. However, with the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system introduced in 1988, most MPs are elected in groups and modern political maps in Singapore usually only show GRCs and a handful of single seats in the existing Single Member Constituencies (SMCs).
However, from a practical perspective, knowledge of which individual ward ones lives in is important for the purpose of knowing which MP to visit should one wish to attend a Meet-the-People Session (MPS) and, indeed, for the greater purpose of keeping our elected MPs accountable for their actions (which entails knowing who they are, in the first place!).
Currently, a map that shows every ward as if it were a SMC does not exist. However, using information gathered from a variety of sources, I managed to map out the 87 constituencies of Singapore so that everyone can know which district they live in.
Diversity within Singapore
Knowing which district we live in affords us a sense of identity. People affix memories and experiences to places and spaces in an intangible manner. A common and easily comprehensible example of this is the sense of identity and belonging people declare when associating themselves with the neighbourhoods in which they spent their childhood, almost as if they feel they have a sense of personal ownership of those areas. From a political perspective, spatial identity is especially significant in a representative democracy such as ours where our legislators represent constituencies that are demarcated by geographical boundaries.
It is, therefore, no wonder that politicians often make it a point to draw a link between their past personal experiences with their constituencies. In the Parliamentary Election of 2011, Jeannette-Chong Aruldoss of the National Solidarity Party referenced her childhood experiences in Mountbatten SMC to highlight her view that the constituency has lost its “idyllic charm…in the seventies” and now reflects a widening socio-economic divide and that Mountbatten is, therefore, a microcosm of the rest of the country. More simplistically, in the Punggol East SMC By-Election of 2013, the People’s Action Party candidate Dr Koh Poh Koon was famously touted as being “the Son of Punggol” while perhaps carelessly forgetting that the seat he was running for was indeed in Sengkang and not actually Punggol. I reckon my map will help Dr Koh get his geography right. In any case, however, both of these examples show that cartography or, at least, the evaluation of local maps is important for our identity.
Political maps also help elucidate patterns of population density and land use. By virtue of the fact that each constituency in Singapore purposely accounts for roughly 20 000 to 30 000 electors, it is easy to infer population densities across the country. For instance, it is quite clear that Yew Tee Constituency is less densely populated than, say, the ward of Teck Ghee, judging from land area. However, this is not to say that the residential areas in Yew Tee are sparsely located as most of the land is used for military purposes. Hence, the map is useful for gauging population density on a constituency-scale in Singapore rather than onaller scale.
Interestingly, a comparison with older political maps provides supporting evidence for the decentralisation of residences in Singapore over the years. In the 1960′s, when every seat was a SMC, the smaller constituencies were located in the urban core whilst the rural surroundings housed the larger ones (refer to map below). Furthermore, a detailed political map of Singapore also sheds some light on land use. As in the case of Yew Tee and other large cosntituencies such as Zhenghua and Siglap, the areas not used up for residential purposes serve other uses – military, environmental conservation, aviation, etc.
Constituency-based maps also aid in tracking changes in electoral boundaries. Variations in delimitation have been a contentious issue in Singapore’s political system, given the frequent re-drawing of the boundaries of GRCs at every election by the Electoral Review Boundaries Committee (EBRC) which is under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office. The lack of explanatory information in the reports of the EBRC has been cited as further evidence of gerrymandering and partiality. Most recently, the constituency of Aljunied – Hougang which traditionally votes strongly in favour of the Workers’ Party, as it did in the close contest in Aljunied GRC in 2006, was shifted out into Ang Mo Kio GRC and re-named ‘Ang Mo Kio – Hougang’ in 2011. Because of the unpredictability of the electoral map in Singapore, perhaps a single-constituency map will allow political parties to view different agglomerations of wards or potential GRCs in a more accessbile and efficient manner, enabling them to possibly draw out their electoral contingency and campaigning plans more easily in the future.
Methodology and Sources
To derive the boundaries of each constituency, I used information from a variety of sources such as Town Council websites, most of which provide information on almost every individual ward albeit to different degrees. The People’s Association’s constituency tracker which uses postal codes to identify constituencies as well as Community Development Council websites also came in handy. Another crucial source of information was a map on Google Maps published as ‘The Ward Boundary Project 2012/3′, which provided me with the boundaries of many of the wards in the eastern half of Singapore. Where the boundaries were more difficult to differentiate and delineate, I used a list of revised polling districts published by the Elections Department as well as a map of each polling district within each GRC and SMC in Singapore, both of which are documents that specifically pertain to the 2011 Parliamentary Elections. (Note: A ‘polling district’ refers to a smaller group of electors within a constituency. Each ‘polling district’ accounts for one polling station.)
Maps are so much more than what most people take them at face value for. Any able Geographer knows this. It is my earnest hope that this map will be interesting and not solely useful to people who may require reference to it. This concludes yet another one of my Mapped Musings, although in a more literal sense this time.
- Government Gazette. Elections Department, (2011). No. 63 – Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218) (Section 9(2)) – Boundaries of Altered Polling Districts.
- Lay, B. (2013, January 27). Three reasons why Dr Koh Poh Koon lost Punggol East. Yahoo! News.
- National Solidarity Party. (2011). Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss.
- Parliament of Singapore. (2014, February 14). List of Constituencies.
- Teo, E. (2013, March 19). The Ward Boundary Project 2012/3.
- The Online Citizen. (2010, April 27). GRCs and Gerrymandering – The Root Causes of Problems: Sylvia Lim.