Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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SPP proposes Fixed Terms of Parliaments Act to resolve alleged EBRC report delay

The Singapore People’s Party has proposed the introduction of a Fixed Terms of Parliaments Act in response to the alleged delay in the Election Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) release of its report.

Party assistant secretary-general Ariffin Sha, in a statement published on SPP’s Facebook page on Tue (7 Jan), said that the proposed Act “will provide for the date of elections to be set in stone”, and will consequently “remove the Prime Minister’s discretion in that regard”.

“Under the proposed legislation, only a 75% majority of Parliament can allow for the date mandated by statute to not be adhered to,” he added.

Commenting on the above alleged delay, Mr Ariffin said that in SPP’s view, “there is little value in speculating the timing of the EBRC’s report or the reasons for the same”.

The Party, instead, has been channelling its time and effort into “ground work and community building for the past three years now to prepare for the GE, whenever it may be held”, instead of “things like the time of the elections, which is out of our control”, the statement read.

SPP, he added, will continue to focus “on things well within our control – like working the ground, connecting with residents and advocating for the people”.

“This way, no matter when the elections are called, we will not be caught off guard.

“Further, we cannot allege that there had been a delay as such an assertion presumes that there was a fixed date,” according to the statement.

The assistant secretary-general in the statement on Tue also conveyed SPP’s appreciation to the Workers’ Party for raising the issue in Parliament recently.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (6 Jan) — on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — in a written reply to Workers’ Party secretary-general Pritam Singh stated that the EBRC report will be presented to Parliament and released to the public once the committee has completed its work.

The report, once released, will detail the electoral boundaries for the upcoming General Election, and is generally a sign that elections are close.

The Elections Department (ELD) last Sep announced that the EBRC had been convened by Mr Lee on 1 Aug, and that the committee was “in the midst of deliberations”.

The EBRC is tasked to look into population changes in various wards and recommending changes to existing Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) and Single-Member Constituencies (SMC).

ELD added that the committee has — upon the PM’s direction — been tasked look at reducing the average size of the current 16 GRCs and to increase the total number of SMCs from the current 13, in line with Mr Lee’s statement in 2016.

Mr Lee was reported as saying at the time that while the GRC system introduced in 1988 should be maintained, a right balance should be struck between big and small GRCs and the number of GRCs and SMCs.

The PM added that smaller GRCs would foster a closer connection between residents and their Members of Parliaments (MP), while SMCs give MPs a more direct responsibility for what happens in their constituencies.

Historically, the time between the formation of the EBRC and the date of the report being released typically ranged from two to four months.

Additionally, the time period between the EBRC’s report’s release — which usually takes place when the updated boundaries are announced — and the actual date of elections is approximately two months.

Singapore’s next general election must be held by April next year.

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