On Wednesday (11 March), former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) and Workers’ Party (WP) politician Yee Jenn Jong took to his Facebook to point out that regardless when the next General Elections (GE) happen, that should not stop the Elections Department from publishing the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) report when it’s ready.
Mr Yee’s post was in response to what Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Wednesday in a roundtable discussion.
Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, revealed that the escalation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak may affect the timing of the next GE. Given its colossal impact on Singapore’s domestic economy as well as the global economy, the outbreak will pose hurdles in determining when the next GE will be held, he explained.
Based on what Mr Heng said, Mr Yee noted in his post that he agrees that it is “not advisable to hold a GE in the midst of the fight against Covid-19”.
However, the WP politician opined that the EBRC report must be issued once it’s ready given that it has been more than seven months since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong convened the EBRC to review the country’s electoral boundaries.
“Already it has taken more than twice the average time to issue the report from the formation of the committee, and nearly 4 times as long as it took for them to do so in 2015. Surely the committee which comprises mostly of the same people as in 2015 cannot have suddenly become so unproductive,” Mr Yee wrote.
He added, “The Elections Department and the EBRC have the perfect chance to show that they are independent. Let that be demonstrated.”
Previous instances on when EBRC report was issued
In September last year, the Elections Department announced that PM Lee had convened the EBRC on 1 August to review Singapore’s electoral boundaries ahead of the GE which must be held by 15 April 2021.
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.