Formation of Electoral Boundaries Review Committee announced on 4 Sept

The Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has convened Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC), said the Elections Department on Wednesday (4 Sept). The committee will review Singapore’s electoral boundaries ahead of the General Elections (GE).

According to a statement by the Elections Department, the committee is chaired by the Secretary to the Prime Minister and is now “in the midst of deliberations” and will make its recommendations to the Prime Minister upon completion of its review.

For those who’re unaware, the committee is usually made up of five civil servants and its role is to split or shrink GRCs, as well as to absorb or create more SMCs, based mainly on population shifts and requests of the PM.

The formations of the EBRC is usually a sign that elections are looming. In 2006 and 2011, the EBRC took up to four months to complete its review before submitting its report. Generally, the process can take between 2-4 months before a report is submitted to the PM. The PM would then accept the report and sent it to Parliament. Any changes to the electoral map are then gazetted before it is made public.

Although there are no exact deadlines for when the election date should be announced after the EBRC report is made public, history tells us that it can take any time between one day to a month and 26 days. Whichever it is, the GE has to be held by April 2021.

So while public speculation is that the elections will be called for early next year, the announcement of the EBRC now means that there is still the possibility of the GE taking place in November or December this year, after the public school exams.

In 2011, the EBRC report was sent to the PM on 21 February, Parliament was dissolved on 19 April, and the GE was held on 7 May.

In 2015, the PM received the report on 21 July, Parliament dissolved on 25 August, and the GE was held less than a month later on 11 September.

This year in June, Worker’s Party MP Pritam Singh had submitted a question in Parliament requesting information about the formation of the EBRC, specifically when the committee would be convened.

Responding on behalf of the PM Lee, Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) has not been formed yet, indicating that the upcoming general election might not happen in September as speculated.

Specifically, in his written response, Mr Chan said: “The Prime Minister has not yet appointed the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee.”

Earlier in February, Mr Singh had asked the same question, saying “It would be a waste of Parliament’s time, and bordering on an abuse of process, if an MP had to file the same parliamentary question to the Prime Minister when rumours of an imminent election are in the air.”

At that time, Mr Chan’s response to Mr Pritam’s question was that the committee should be allowed to focus on its work professionally, away from unnecessary media attention or public pressures.

In the ED’s statement today, it noted that the committee has been directed to:

  • Review the boundaries of the current electoral divisions and to recommend the number and boundaries of Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) and Single Member Constituencies (SMC) taking into consideration significant changes in the number of electors in the current electoral divisions as a result of population shifts and housing development;
  • to further reduce the average size of the GRCs;
  • and to have more than the current 13 SMCs.

In 2011, the EBRC’s review has resulted in the formation of 15 GRCs and 12 SMCs while in 2015, the figures were adjusted to 15 GRCs and 13 SMCs. Two of the GRCs have six MPs, eight of them are five-member GRCs, while another six are four-member GRCs.

In 2016, PM Lee had said in Parliament that the next GE would see smaller GRCs on average and more SMCs.