In September last year, the Elections Department announced that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had convened the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) on 1 August to review the country’s electoral boundaries ahead of the next General Elections (GE) which must be held by 15 April 2021.
The thing is though, it’s been seven months since the EBRC was convened, but it has yet to release a report.
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.
While in 2015, PM Lee announced that the EBRC was formed in May and the report was released only two months later, in July.
Moving on, when 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.
Before that, it took one to three months between the EBRC being convened to the general election being held for the 2001 election. The date of the committee formation back then is a little unclear.
So based on history, the current timeline between the formation of the EBRC (1 August 2019) to the yet unreleased report is the longest it has been since 2001. It’s been a little over seven months since the EBRC was formed, yet the findings have not been released. Why is that?
TOC notes that speculation on the ground is that elections might be called at the end of May this year, just after Ramadan (the Muslim fasting month) and before the June holidays begin.
If this is true, is the ruling PAP government planning on releasing the revised electoral boundaries at the last minute to catch the opposition off guard the way they did in the 2001 elections?
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. Then in October, the EBRC released its report and less than a month later, the GE was held on 3 November.
As a result of the sudden call for election, only 29 of the 84 seats were contested.
Let’s also not forget what PM 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: