In September, the Elections Department announced that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had convened the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) to review Singapore’s electoral boundaries ahead of the general election (GE) which must be held by 15 April 2021.
When questioned by Worker’s Party chief Pritam Singh, MP for the Aljunied GRC, in Parliament about when exactly the committee was formed, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing responded that it was done on 1 August.
According to the Elections Department, the committee is chaired by the Secretary to the Prime Minister and is “in the midst of deliberations”. Recommendations will be made to PM Lee once the committee completes its review.
Generally, the process of a review can take between two to four months before a report is submitted to the PM, who will then accept the report and send it to parliament. There, any changes to the electoral map are gazetted before it is made public.
Now, the time it takes between the formation of the EBRC and the report being submitted varies with each election. In 2006, the EBRC released the report in March, for which it took four months to complete its review. The timeline was similar for 2011, with the committee being formed around October 2010 and the report released in February 2011.
As for the 2015 GE, PM Lee announced that the EBRC was formed in May. The report was released only two months later, in July.
If we look at the time from when the EBRC report is released to the actual date of elections, that doesn’t vary as much. In 2006, the elections were held about two months after the boundaries were announced. Same for the 2011 and 2015 elections.
For the 2001 election, it took about one to three months between the EBRC being convened to the general election being held. The date of the committee formation back then is a little unclear. As you can see from the screengrab of news articles below from 2001, people were not expecting a general election anytime soon. In July, there was speculation that a GE would not be held until the second half of the next year since the EBRC hadn’t been set up yet at the time.
What is clear though, is that the committee’s report was released on 17 October 2001 and the election was held less than a month later on 3 November 2001.
Now, based on Singapore’s history, the current timeline between the formation of the EBRC (1 August 2019) to the yet unreleased report veering on the longer side. It’s been almost four months since the EBRC was formed, yet the findings have not been released. Why is that?
Is it because the PAP government doesn’t want to let the opposition prepare the ground earlier?
Let’s not forget what Mr Lee said at a campaign rally during the 2006 election about “fixing” the opposition:
“Right now we have Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong and Steve Chia. We can deal with them. Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 Opposition members in Parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I’m going to spend all my time thinking what’s the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters votes, how can I solve this week’s problem and forget about next year’s challenges?”
Is this yet another method of fixing by the ruling PAP to ‘fix’ the opposition?
Below is a timeline of EBRC formation, report release, parliament dissolution and nomination days for the last four GEs: