By Yudhishthra Nathan
If you’ve lived in Hougang for most of your life, as I have, you’d know that alleged gerrymandering is something we’ve become accustomed to. Most of what’s in that white circle is what you and I would call Hougang.
For the Parliamentary General Election (GE); If you live at Hougang St 51, you vote with Pasir Ris residents. If you live at Hougang Ave 8, you vote with people in Ang Mo Kio. If you live at the Hougang Mall area, you share the same MP as Singaporeans in Bedok Reservoir.
Once upon a time, in 1997, many parts of Hougang were under Cheng San GRC where a very close fight led WP to win 45.2% of the vote share. The following election in 2001, saw the split of these parts of Hougang, then thrown into the Pasir Ris-Punggol, Ang Mo Kio and Aljunied GRCs that we see today. I’ll also never forget how the ward of Aljunied-Hougang was taken out of Aljunied GRC, thrown into Ang Mo Kio GRC in 2011 and renamed ‘Ang Mo Kio-Hougang’. WP was said to have performed well in that ward at the previous election in 2006.
That’s why the report by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) matters so much. With the stroke of a pen, people appointed by the PM decide which GRC you become a part of.
What are the parameters used to delineate seats? Solely population changes? I don’t think so. And we’ll never know for sure because the EBRC reports for recent general elections no longer publish explanations like the old ones used to in the 70s.
So before we hit the next GE and before bread and butter issues dominate the political scene, let’s take a second to recognise how important it is to reform the way we conduct elections – starting off by removing the Elections Department from the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office and having an independent commission delineate boundaries with practical, geographically-minded common sense.