Sunday, 26 July 2015

Electoral Boundaries Report 2015: 16 GRCs, 13 single seats to pick 89 MPs in coming GE

Boundaries committee cuts average size of GRCs to below 5; one more single seat added; fewer voters to face changes in their wards
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

Eagerly anticipated changes to electoral boundaries have been announced, raising expectations that the next general election will be called soon, possibly in September.

But the traditional redrawing of constituency boundaries ahead of every election proved to be milder than some had expected this time around.

They also continue reforms to the system Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had initiated ahead of the 2011 General Election, to reduce the average size of a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and have more Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs).

Some one in five voters, or 19 per cent of voters, will find themselves in a new constituency. This figure is fewer than the 30 per cent of voters affected by boundary changes ahead of the 2011 election.

Two more seats are also up for contest. The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, in its report released yesterday, recommended a rise in the number of elected Members of Parliament from 87 to 89.

They will come from 16 GRCs, up from 15, and 13 SMCs, up from 12.

Prime Minister Lee said in a Facebook post: "To make smaller GRCs and more SMCs, some boundaries have had to be changed."

The changes also take into account new housing estates. The report said: "The committee reviewed all the existing electoral divisions, taking into account their current configurations, population shifts and housing developments since the last boundary delineation exercise."

Taken as a whole, analysts said, they keep the playing field level, although several areas that saw close contests from the opposition Workers' Party (WP) in 2011 - Joo Chiat SMC and parts of Moulmein-Kallang GRC - have been absorbed into nearby constituencies.

In keeping with recent practice, the boundaries of opposition-held seats have remained unchanged: Aljunied GRC, as well as Hougang and Punggol East SMCs.

Political scientist Lam Peng Er of the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute said of the report overall: "By and large, it's a very modest shift, nothing too radical."

But WP council member, Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam, said many of the areas the party contested had been split up.

"We have to study the report very carefully to decide which one we want to contest in," he added.

There will now be six four-member GRCs, up from two, and eight five-member GRCs, down from 11.

Ang Mo Kio GRC and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, helmed respectively by PM Lee and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, remain the only two six-member GRCs.

But five-MP East Coast GRC, which saw the closest fight in 2011 from a WP team, will now have four MPs, with Fengshan SMC hived off.

Four-MP Moulmein-Kallang GRC is no more, as Jalan Besar GRC makes a comeback, taking in Whampoa SMC and parts of Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Most of Moulmein ward, under Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, has been split up between four surrounding GRCs.

A new four-MP Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC has also been formed in the north-west, from parts of Chua Chu Kang GRC and Sembawang GRC that have seen significant population growth of late.

Parts of the sprawling Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC have been moved westwards to Ang Mo Kio GRC, with changes also being made to Nee Soon GRC and Sembawang GRC.

As for the SMCs, 10 of the 12 existing single seats remain on the map.

Two more former SMCs make a return: Bukit Batok has been carved out of Jurong GRC, and MacPherson from Marine Parade GRC.

In the days ahead, People's Action Party (PAP) activists and opposition members will meet their teams to step up preparations for the election.

The next stage is for Parliament to be dissolved and the writ of election issued.

Nomination Day, the start of the traditional nine-day campaign period, is expected to take place from a minimum of five days after the writ.

"Wherever the boundaries may be drawn, MPs should serve the residents they represent to the best of their ability," PM Lee said yesterday.

"And voters should support the candidates or teams who will best represent their interests, both in the constituency and as the Government of Singapore.




The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) has submitted its report. When I appointed the Committee two months...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, July 24, 2015





ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES REPORT: THE GRCs

More 4-MP GRCs, Moulmein-Kallang GRC disappears
There will be six GRCs with 4 MPs, up from two, and eight five-member GRCs
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

More four-member Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) have been added to the electoral map, bringing down the average size of GRCs at the next general election.

And while several five-member GRCs - Chua Chu Kang, East Coast and West Coast GRCs - saw a reduction in size, the jumbo six-member Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRCs were left untouched.

Altogether, there will be 16 GRCs up for grabs at the next polls, yielding 76 MPs, up from the current 15 GRCs and 75 MPs.

These boundary changes made by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee met the terms of reference by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong "to have smaller GRCs, so as to reduce the average size of GRCs below five".

There will now be six GRCs with four members, eight GRCs with five members, and two GRCs with six members. Overall, the average number of MPs per GRC will be 4.75.

Yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam also designated 10 of the GRCs to have at least one Malay candidate, and six of the GRCs to have at least one Indian or other minority candidate, in line with the requirement to have minority representation in Parliament.

Of the existing two four-member GRCs, only Holland-Bukit Timah GRC will remain the same.

The other, Moulmein-Kallang GRC, helmed by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, will disappear from the electoral map. It is the only GRC to go in this round of redrawing.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, one of the MPs there, said boundary shifts were inevitable given the need to create more smaller GRCs, and Moulmein-Kallang is "one of the most affected".

So although the GRC did not see significant demographic changes - its voter roll went from 87,595 in 2011 to 87,965 this year - it will be broken up, with 62,095 voters going to the new four-MP Jalan Besar GRC, and Moulmein ward's voters mostly redistributed between three other GRCs: Bishan-Toa Payoh, Holland- Bukit Timah and Tanjong Pagar.

Dr Yaacob is expected to helm the new Jalan Besar GRC, which takes in his Kolam Ayer ward, while Mr Lui is expected to be moved. Asked where he will go, he said: "I have some idea of what the possible plans are but... this is not quite the right time for me to talk about it."

Jalan Besar GRC is not entirely new. It was erased in 2011, and will largely reabsorb areas it used to span, including areas of Tanjong Pagar GRC's Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng ward, and Whampoa Single-Member Constituency (SMC). MPs currently in these areas are Mr Edwin Tong, Dr Lily Neo, and Senior Minister of State Heng Chee How.

There will be four other new four-member GRCs.

Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC is completely new, and will be cobbled together with parts of Chua Chu Kang GRC, which will also be downsized from five to four members, as well as Sembawang GRC. Rounding out the list of four-member GRCs are West Coast and East Coast GRCs, which will be downsized from their current five members.

Speculation had swirled in opposition circles about East Coast GRC being cut up, as the area was an electoral hot spot in 2011. A Workers' Party (WP) team contesting there polled 45.17 per cent against the People's Action Party team's 54.83 per cent.

But there was little change to its borders, with only Fengshan area becoming an SMC.

Said East Coast GRC MP Raymond Lim: "Nothing has changed substantively for us. We will continue to serve our residents to the best of our abilities regardless of whether Fengshan is an SMC or part of a GRC."

Meanwhile, the light-touch applied to the boundaries of the two mammoth GRCs, Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol, surprised observers. Many expected the six-member GRCs to be downsized, particularly Pasir Ris-Punggol, which saw a population boom in the last four years.

Helmed by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, it had added almost 40,000 voters since 2011, and surpassed Ang Mo Kio GRC as the constituency with the largest number of voters.

In fact, in the 2011 redrawing exercise, parts of it were taken out to form Punggol East SMC.

But this time, it will cede six polling districts in Punggol South, and 19,689 voters, to Ang Mo Kio GRC, helmed by PM Lee, putting both GRCs on a par in the electoral charts.

The resulting knock-on changes will see the boundaries of GRCs in the north being altered - Ang Mo Kio GRC will see 22,910 voters move to Nee Soon GRC, while 53,177 voters will move from Nee Soon GRC to Sembawang GRC.

Sembawang GRC will, in turn, see 61,061 voters move to the new Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

While analysts praised the move towards smaller GRCs, they said retaining six-member GRCs did not seem to square with this shift.

Political scientist Derek da Cunha said: "Six-member GRCs stand out like a sore thumb and their continued existence will likely perplex many people."

Singapore Management University law don and former Nominated MP Eugene Tan added: "The fact that the two six-man GRCs are helmed by PM Lee and DPM Teo will give rise to views that it is to make things easier."

Only two GRCs see their boundaries unchanged: WP-held Aljunied GRC, and Tampines GRC, led by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.






News analysis: Sober report, with a few puzzles
Opposition strongholds untouched, but disappearance of hot-seat Joo Chiat draws flak
By Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee released its much-awaited report yesterday, a document that will be pored over for what it says about the political landscape and the coming election.

But in truth, its 14-page report, full of tables giving number of voters in each constituency, was fairly unremarkable.

Its most remarkable decision comes in the form of a small but potent bombshell. Joo Chiat Single Member Constituency has disappeared, swallowed by People's Action Party stronghold Marine Parade GRC. In the 2011 General Election, Workers' Party (WP) candidate Yee Jenn Jong had garnered 48.99 per cent of votes.

So what explains this move?

With 22,752 voters (based on April figures), Joo Chiat is a tad small, since the average number of voters per constituency is 28,300, for an electorate of 2.46 million and 87 constituencies.

But the boundaries committee also allowed a plus/minus 30 per cent variation in number of voters per seat, which it said would yield 20,000 to 37,000 voters per MP. Joo Chiat's estimated 22,752 voters falls within this range.

So if Joo Chiat's population changes do not warrant a change in boundary, what does?

Asked for his views on the change, Mr Yee declined to speculate about any political motivation for the change. Instead, he said he thought Joo Chiat residents too would be disappointed: "Even people who have voted for the PAP... are also looking forward to a close fight."

Many observers would attribute the ward's disappearance to politics. Yet, as veteran political watcher Hussin Mutalib noted, opposition strongholds like Aljunied GRC, Hougang and Punggol East were left largely untouched, as was hotly contested Potong Pasir.

Concerns that the boundary changes would severely disadvantage the opposition were not realised, he said, adding: "In this sense, probable accusations of bias and unfairness will be muted."

So optimists may say this year's report could have been much worse. As analyst Lam Peng Er put it: "2015 is actually not too bad, I don't think the opposition should kick up too much of a fuss."

Since 2006, dramatic boundary changes common in the 1990s have been done away with. Instead, small shifts to electoral boundaries are more common.

In 2011, despite widespread speculation, hot seat Aljunied GRC was left intact and the WP won it. The committee's terms of reference in any case are technical, not political: to review constituency boundaries in a way that "take into consideration significant increases or decreases in the number of electors in the current electoral divisions as a result of population shifts and housing developments since the last boundary delineation exercise".

Some changes would appear logical from that population point of view. Woodlands, where new homes are being constructed, yields a new GRC in Marsiling-Yew Tee. If you look at the overall electoral map of 2015 now, single- seat constituencies are concentrated around the western and north-eastern fringes: Pioneer, Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang, Hong Kah North in the west; and Punggol East and Sengkang West in the north-east. This is consistent with the west and north-east being areas of high population growth over the last decade, as new housing estates mushroom.

But if you look at the individual changes one by one, it is impossible to figure out if politics or population changes were the driving factor.

Neighbouring Moulmein-Kallang GRC, which the PAP held on to with 58.6 per cent of the votes in 2011, has been carved up with a large portion going to Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. But it was not the worst-performing GRC for the incumbent. A new GRC named Jalan Besar has been formed, harking back to 2006 when Jalan Besar GRC existed.

With Moulmein-Kallang GRC gone, speculation will be rife as to what this means for the two ministers anchoring it: Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, beset by SMRT breakdown woes; and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

Mr Lui said on Facebook he was disappointed but understood why the changes had to be made: "PM has given the guidelines to the boundaries committee to have smaller GRCs, and you need to create more GRCs, smaller GRCs, so naturally the boundaries will have to shift."

In this respect, opposition candidate Tan Jee Say noted that the Government had promised to reduce the size of GRCs. But there are no three-member GRCs. Meanwhile, two GRCs continue to have six MPs: Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol. He said: "They promised a lot of things, but it didn't really come about."

Overall, the increase in GRCs from 15 to 16 means there will be one more minister needed to "helm" a GRC.

Will one of the two young ministers Lawrence Wong or Tan Chuan-Jin move out from beneath the "coat-tails" provided by their anchor ministers in, respectively, West Coast GRC (Lim Hng Kiang) and Marine Parade GRC (Goh Chok Tong)? After all, their political peer Chan Chun Sing is likely to anchor Tanjong Pagar GRC in the next election, with the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March.

Three new single seats were carved out: Fengshan, Bukit Batok and MacPherson. With Joo Chiat and Whampoa merged into other wards, the total number of single seats rose from 12 to 13.

Fengshan is in the heart of Bedok, an established estate, where the population is likely to be stable. MacPherson is an old estate whose MP Tin Pei Ling is heavily pregnant: She announced she was expecting her first child five months ago, in February. New housing is sprouting up around Bukit Batok Housing Board estate, but this should not have resulted in major population shifts yet.


"I think it pales in comparison to the bread and butter issues my residents face." MP for Marine Parade GRC Tin Pei Ling on the personal attacks she's gotten in the past, and how she's grown as an MP. People's Action Party #GE2015 #sgelections (Video: Lianne Chia)
Posted by 938LIVE on Sunday, July 26, 2015


In the absence of good data on actual population shifts, it is hard to tease out the rationale for specific boundary changes.

At most, one can say that when it comes to single seats being created, there is no clear political advantage to the PAP in having those three new ones.

In fact, some changes appear disadvantageous to the incumbent party. Opposition candidate Goh Meng Seng pointed to Whampoa being merged and said: "Very strange, like Whampoa has disappeared, and they are doing so well there."

In the end, it is hard to gainsay that the changes affect both the opposition and incumbent. Both have to reshuffle candidates, some of whom will end up contesting in wards they are strangers to, struggling to build a quick rapport with voters. But that is par for the course in politics.

It is a sign of political advancement that it is no longer sweeping boundary changes that focus minds when a report is out. Instead, the most noteworthy thing about this report is that it was released so soon, about two months after the committee was formed, compared with four in the last two elections. With the quick release of the report, an early poll can be expected.

The hot date of Sept 12 now looks ever more likely.





Who will helm Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC?
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

A new GRC has been born, in response to an influx of new Housing Board flats in the north of Singapore. But even in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC's infancy, questions have surfaced about which minister will helm it.

The four-member constituency is the only completely new electoral division out of 29 recommended by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee in a report released yesterday.

Four others - Jalan Besar GRC and the single-seat wards of Bukit Batok, Fengshan and MacPherson - are old constituencies that have resurfaced, and had been on the electoral map in previous polls.

Marsiling-Yew Tee takes in about 61,000 voters from Sembawang GRC's Marsiling and Woodgrove wards, and another 46,000 voters from Chua Chu Kang GRC's Yew Tee ward. It is roughly bounded by the Strait of Johor in the north, Mandai Road in the south, Old Choa Chu Kang Road in the west and smaller streets like Riverside Road and Woodlands Avenue 5 in the east.

MPs affected by the changes include Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower Hawazi Daipi and Mr Ong Teng Koon from Sembawang GRC, and Mr Alex Yam from Chua Chu Kang GRC. They say that several hundred Housing Board blocks have sprung up in the north in the last four years, leading to a population boom. "It's sad we have to hive off parts of Sembawang GRC but it's not possible to retain all of it," said Mr Hawazi.

For now, residents and observers are keenly watching to see who else will be sent to the new GRC, since the person is likely to anchor it.

When asked about this, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who anchors Sembawang GRC, told The Straits Times in an e-mail: "We will make sure we have a strong anchor for all our GRCs, new or existing."

By the reckoning of National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew could be the man for the job. His Moulmein-Kallang GRC has been dissolved and redistributed, and he has indicated he would be leaving his original area.

But he did not want to confirm where he might be sent.

Speculation is also swirling around former top civil servant Ong Ye Kung. He had contested in the last election in Aljunied GRC as part of the People's Action Party slate that lost to the Workers' Party.

In the run-up to that election, Mr Ong had been touted as being of ministerial calibre by various Cabinet ministers. He is widely expected to contest in the next election, and has been understudying Mr Hawazi for the past year. Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said he would not be surprised if Mr Ong is the GRC's anchor: "The PAP might prefer him to helm a GRC because it would be good for his political standing to win an election leading one, rather than being just a member."

Meanwhile, there is also talk that Mr Hawazi, a veteran MP serving his fourth term, could retire, leaving a second slot open at the four-member Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC. According to electoral rules on minority candidates, the GRC requires at least one Malay candidate.

Lawyer Amrin Amin, who has shadowed Mr Hawazi and now helps Woodlands MP Ellen Lee, could be a possible replacement.

Since Marsiling-Yew Tee is new, there is no telling how votes will swing. But constituencies in the north are typically considered PAP strongholds. In the watershed 2011 General Election, Sembawang GRC was among the party's top 10 performers, with Mr Khaw's team winning 63.9 per cent of the vote. At the then newly created Chua Chu Kang GRC, the PAP won over 61.2 per cent of the vote.





Yaacob welcomes return of Jalan Besar GRC
Many residents identify the place with the name, says minister anchoring short-lived Moulmein-Kallang GRC
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

The anchor minister of the short-lived Moulmein-Kallang GRC, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, last night said he welcomed the resurrection of Jalan Besar GRC, which was unexpectedly wiped off the electoral map in the last general election.

Its revival will largely undo boundary changes made in 2011, reuniting wards that were scattered to Tanjong Pagar GRC and Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

It will also reabsorb its old Whampoa ward, which in the last election was carved out as a new single-seat constituency under Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Heng Chee How.

"The neighbourhoods of the new Jalan Besar GRC (have) the same make-up as the old (one)... I welcome back the Jalan Besar name, and I believe many residents will too," said Dr Yaacob, whose Kolam Ayer ward is going back to the GRC.

"The name 'Jalan Besar' has been around for over 50 years, and many residents can identify the place with the name," he added in a Facebook post.

In the country's first general election in 1959, the single-seat Jalan Besar saw a fierce four-cornered fight that ended in victory for the People's Action Party (PAP).

It was reconstituted as a GRC in 1988, and has been keenly contested by opposition parties at every election save one.

Jalan Besar GRC's sudden dissolution in 2011 saw the birth of the five-man Moulmein-Kallang GRC, which will now vanish after just one election.

Moulmein-Kallang saw a fierce fight between the People's Action Party and the Workers' Party in that election, with the PAP polling 58 per cent of the vote and winning.

Now, three of the wards in that GRC - Kolam Ayer, Mr Edwin Tong's Jalan Besar and Ms Denise Phua's Kampong Glam - will once again become part of Jalan Besar GRC. So will Dr Lily Neo's Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng ward, which in 2011 joined Tanjong Pagar GRC.

The new four-man Jalan Besar GRC is the third-smallest of the 16 GRCs on the new electoral map, with an estimated 102,454 voters.

For first-term MP Edwin Tong, the revival brings with it mixed feelings. On the one hand, he has become attached to Moulmein-Kallang, but the Jalan Besar name "has history and heritage".

It also better represents the GRC's location, he added.

"When I say 'Moulmein-Kallang', people ask me, 'Wait, where is that? Is it in Moulmein? Is it in Kallang? What does that mean?' " recalled Mr Tong with a laugh.

The new Jalan Besar GRC will have a more uniform population profile, he and his fellow MP Denise Phua said.

Moulmein-Kallang GRC now includes Mr Lui Tuck Yew's Moulmein ward, which has a concentration of landed houses at one end, in areas such as Linden Drive. The new Jalan Besar GRC, however, will be largely made up of voters in public housing.

But for those in Moulmein ward, the boundary changes mean bitter parting. A bulk of the ward will wind up in Tanjong Pagar GRC, said Moulmein branch secretary Chua Lai Teck. But the rest will be split up between the Holland-Bukit Timah and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRCs.

"We've seen the transformation of Moulmein from a slum to a middle-class neighbourhood," said Mr Chua, who has served in the ward for over 30 years.

"Our grassroots leaders are quite upset. There's a very strong sense of identity here in Moulmein. It's like splitting up a family."

Mr Lui, who has been the ward's MP since 2006, said he would leave with a sense of sadness.

While he has some idea of possible plans for him in the future, "this is not quite the right time" to reveal them, he added.






ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES REPORT: THE SMCs

PAP's Sitoh happy Potong Pasir has been left intact
But absorption of Whampoa, seen as a safe ward for the PAP, into a GRC puzzles many
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin's wish was answered as the boundaries of his constituency - the smallest of the current 12 single-seat wards - stayed intact following a review by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, which released its report yesterday.

"We have spent 15 years working very hard to build relationships with our residents. I really don't want to lose any member of our Potong Pasir community. So I'm very happy," he said.

He wrested the seat from Singapore People's Party (SPP) in the 2011 General Election, with just 50.4 per cent of the total vote share.

But while he gets his wish to prove himself and contest again in a single-seat ward, the same cannot be said for incumbents in Joo Chiat and Whampoa, which got swallowed by neighbouring GRCs.

The absorption of Whampoa, in particular, left analysts and opposition politicians puzzled.

Whampoa, which will merge and become part of Jalan Besar GRC was believed to have been a "safe" ward. In the 2011 election, the People's Action Party's (PAP) Mr Heng Chee How clinched victory against Mr Ken Sun of the National Solidarity Party (NSP), securing 66 per cent of total votes.

Mr Heng, who is Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, would not be drawn into discussion of whether he would be fielded in Jalan Besar GRC, saying it is a decision for the party to take.

"On our part, we will integrate our plans and preparations with those of the others forming Jalan Besar GRC," he said.

"What is important to me is that we continue to do our best to serve the people of Whampoa, regardless of whether it is a Single- Member Constituency (SMC) or part of a GRC."

Former NSP secretary-general Tan Lam Siong, who was in the frame to contest in Whampoa at the next election, said he was surprised that the SMC has been absorbed by Jalan Besar GRC.

Mr Tan may now set his sights on another SMC and contest it as an independent candidate, having quit the NSP earlier this month.

"I am still pondering over why SMCs like Mountbatten and Potong Pasir are still there," he said.

"If you look at votes, one would have thought that if you are talking about redrawing boundaries of SMCs for the sake of gaining some kind of advantage, then these two would have been removed rather than Whampoa."

In the last general election in 2011, the PAP's Mr Lim Biow Chuan won Mountbatten with 58.6 per cent of the votes. The same likely challenger there at the next polls - the SPP's Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss - said in a Facebook post that she was happy the SMC survived the review intact.

As for Joo Chiat, there will be no restaging of the bout between the PAP's Mr Charles Chong and the Workers' Party's Mr Yee Jenn Jong in the next general election.

Joo Chiat SMC was closely fought in 2011 with the PAP just edging out the WP and winning 51 per cent of the vote share.

Hence the move to merge Joo Chiat with Marine Parade GRC did not surprise many. Political scientist Lam Peng Er of the NUS' East Asian Institute believed that Joo Chiat - if it remained an SMC - would have gone to the WP.

"(That's) because Charles Chong is probably in his last term, and Yee Jenn Jong from the WP, he's a local boy and a Non-Constituency MP. He has at least some visibility in Parliament. Chances are, it would have gone to the WP, but it disappeared. But it's just one seat," Dr Lam said.

In place of the two SMCs that are being absorbed by GRCs, three new SMCs are being introduced on the political landscape.

Bukit Batok, Fengshan and MacPherson, having been carved out of larger GRCs, will be open to contests as SMCs in the next general election.

Bukit Batok has been drawn from out of Jurong GRC, Fengshan from East Coast GRC, and MacPherson out of Marine Parade GRC.

Together, these three new SMCs will have a total of 78,953 electors.

Observers, who were expecting to see a larger number of SMCs established from out of the boundaries committee's review, were disappointed with just one "paltry" addition, and wondered why more single-seat wards could not have been carved out from the two largest GRCs.

"Would it have been so difficult for the committee to reduce Ang Mo Kio and Pasir-Ris Punggol from GRCs with six members to five members by hiving off one ward from each to form two new SMCs? This would have increased the number of SMCs by three to 15," political scientist Derek da Cunha said.

Not surprisingly, the release of the report has been accompanied by some calls from opposition politicians for the committee - in the name of fair play and transparency - to justify its decisions and show how the boundaries came to be determined.

But political observers noted that the retention of Potong Pasir and leaving opposition-held wards largely intact, would blunt any accusation of bias by the committee in the redrawing of boundaries.

Some added that the establishment of the three new SMCs could throw up interesting deployment of candidates by parties, and speculated that there could be keen contests in Sengkang West, Punggol East, Potong Pasir, MacPherson and Fengshan SMCs.





Lina Chiam wants to return to Potong Pasir
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam will make a bid for Potong Pasir once more, she said last night.

Mrs Chiam, who lost the Single- Member Constituency (SMC) by a wafer-thin 114 votes in 2011, told The Straits Times she wants to return to contest the long-time stronghold of her husband, former MP Chiam See Tong, who held the seat from 1984 till 2011.

She also said that her Singapore People's Party (SPP) will stand in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, where Mr Chiam stood and was defeated in the last election.

She declined to say if Mr Chiam, the country's longest-serving opposition MP, will be contesting the next election, although she confirmed that new SPP member Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss will be running in Mountbatten SMC under the party's banner.

"We are very happy to note that Potong Pasir SMC is intact," Mrs Chiam said. "And we are happy that the SPP is still given a chance to be able to contest in the SMC and, if elected, to serve Potong Pasir residents again, as Mr Chiam has done in the past 27 years."

A teacher-turned-lawyer, Mr Chiam won Potong Pasir under the Singapore Democratic Party banner in 1984. He held the single-seat ward until 2011, when he contested in Bishan-Toa Payoh and lost to the PAP.

Mrs Chiam said the SPP will be fielding teams in the three constituencies it contested in 2011 - which includes Hong Kah North SMC. The party has also not ruled out running in other SMCs and GRCs, she said.

It will announce its candidates later, she added. "I will be standing in Potong Pasir. I stood there, I promised people I will return, and I will come back again," she said.





ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES REPORT: THE OPPOSITION

No changes to areas held by WP
Analysts says borders left intact to quell talk of gerrymandering to benefit ruling party
By Lim Yan Liang and Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

The boundaries of the Workers' Party-held constituencies of Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East have been left intact, unlike the borders of the areas it has been eyeing.

Analysts said the likely reason for retaining the borders at the opposition-held constituencies is to quell talk of gerrymandering that benefits the ruling party.

In fact, the borders of Hougang and Potong Pasir, the two single- seat constituencies long held by opposition parties, had hardly been redrawn in the past few elections.

Potong Pasir, a Chiam See Tong stronghold since 1984, until it fell to the People's Action Party in the 2011 election, remains unchanged although it has only 17,389 voters. This is well below the 20,000 to 37,000 voters range the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee had set for a single-seat constituency.

Single-seat Hougang was WP chief Low Thia Khiang's bastion from 1991 until he left to lead a team to victory in Aljunied GRC in 2011. But it remains under WP control.

In 2013, the party brought Punggol East SMC into its fold in a by-election victory.

Analysts like sociologist Tan Ern Ser believe that any move to significantly change the boundaries of opposition constituencies would be politically untenable. It may even become an election issue, said Professor Tan of the National University of Singapore.

Indeed, in the 2011 General Election, Mr Low told Hougang residents in an open letter that his decision to leave to contest Aljunied GRC was spurred in part by what he called unfair changes in the electoral boundaries.

He criticised the moving of parts of Aljunied GRC where he said the WP had enjoyed good support, into Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRCs. In turn, a part of Marine Parade GRC - the Kaki Bukit area - was absorbed into Aljunied GRC.

"So we're here to break through a GRC and let them learn a lesson," Mr Low had said then.

But the party is typically holding its cards close to its chest on what it plans to do in the next election.

Joo Chiat SMC, in which the WP lost by 388 votes, has been absorbed into Marine Parade GRC.

Moulmein-Kallang GRC, which it contested in 2011, has been split into four parts.

"A lot of the areas we had contested have been carved up," said the party's media chairman Gerald Giam, who is a Non-Constituency MP.

"We have to study the report very carefully to decide which one we want to contest in," he added.

However, Dr Gillian Koh, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said the WP is likely to continue to go for East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC, which has been carved out of the old East Coast GRC.

Her reason: It did "fairly well" in East Coast in 2011.

"They may also move to the five-member Tampines GRC which is more manageable in terms of size than the six-member GRC of Pasir Ris-Punggol.

"WP is rather systematic in terms of trying to gun for areas that are contiguous to their bases as they focus on connecting directly with the ground," she added.

But with Joo Chiat SMC absorbed into Marine Parade GRC, Dr Koh wondered: "Will that cause the WP to move to the south and gun for that GRC?''

WP Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong hinted: "The party has expended a lot of effort every week on the ground in Joo Chiat SMC and in areas around it such as Marine Parade, parts of Joo Chiat outside the SMC, and Kembangan-Chai Chee. We will evaluate our options."

Additional reporting by Chew Hui Min





Opposition politicians weigh their options
By Chong Zi Liang , Lim Yan Liang and Goh Yan Han, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

Since their election defeat in 2011, opposition politicians Yee Jenn Jong and Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss have continued to walk the ground in constituencies they contested, hoping for another bite at the cherry.

Only one of them will get their wish after the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee released its report yesterday - widely anticipated by opposition parties so they can firm up their election plans.

While the Mountbatten single-seat ward where Mrs Chong-Aruldoss took 41.4 per cent of the votes remains on the electoral map, Joo Chiat - which Mr Yee lost by just 388 votes - has been absorbed by Marine Parade GRC.

Mr Yee, a Workers' Party (WP) Non-Constituency MP in Parliament, said yesterday that he was "highly disappointed" as he had been visiting Joo Chiat residents every week for the last four years.

"I really feel very bad for the Joo Chiat residents. Even people who voted for the People's Action Party... were also looking forward to another close fight," he said.

He is "open to all possibilities" on where to stand in the next general election now that his single-seat stomping ground is gone.

There was no such uncertainty for Mrs Chong-Aruldoss. Within an hour of the release of the boundaries report, she had changed her Facebook page cover photo to the Singapore People's Party (SPP) symbol accompanied by the words "Jeanette for Mountbatten".

She stood there in 2011 under the National Solidarity Party (NSP) banner but moved to the SPP in March. "As I promised four years ago, I'll be back at the polls in GE 2015. I promise to work even harder to win the hearts and minds of Mountbatten," she wrote on her Facebook page.

Yesterday, opposition parties moved to absorb the report's implications and to put their mark on newly demarcated constituencies.

Several criticised the retention of six-member GRCs, and said changes to reduce the size of GRCs did not go as far as they expected.

Democratic Progressive Party secretary-general Benjamin Pwee said: "We are sad to see the large six-man GRCs remain untouched. We hoped to see a sizeable drop in the number of GRCs and increase in SMCs, for candidates to fight on their own credibility, and not ride on the coat-tails of other MPs."

He said the party was "committed to standing in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC", which Mr Pwee contested in 2011 on an SPP ticket.

Similarly, Mr Goh Meng Seng of the newly registered People's Power Party said that if GRCs were meant to ensure minority representation, three-member GRCs would serve the same purpose just as well.

The party was eyeing the Whampoa single-seat ward. Now that it is no longer on the electoral map, Mr Goh may shift his attention to the new single-seat wards of Bukit Batok and Feng Shan.

Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam is eyeing West Coast GRC, Ang Mo Kio GRC and the Radin Mas single-seat constituency. He said his party has been walking the ground regularly since the 2011 GE.

"I think it is important to challenge the Prime Minister on his home turf of Ang Mo Kio and I am glad to see he is still hiding behind a six-member GRC because it shows he is afraid," he said.

Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) chief Desmond Lim was glad the six-member Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, which his party contested in 2011 and plans to do so again, has been left largely untouched.

"If there was a major change, our efforts over the last four years would have gone down the drain," he said.

And although the SDA previously hosted meetings among opposition parties in 2006 and 2011 to discuss strategy and how to avoid multi-cornered fights, he said he had no plans to do so this time.

NSP president Sebastian Teo also said there were no immediate plans for the parties to meet: "Everybody needs to have their internal discussions before they can have a talk with the other parties. From past experience, the parties will have their internal discussion first and then meet with each other within one to two weeks."

Mr Tan Jee Say of the Singaporeans First party said the "general consensus among the opposition is that we want to avoid each other" to prevent multi-cornered fights.

"We are interested in Tampines and Marine Parade but, now that Marine Parade has absorbed Joo Chiat, we will have to see what the WP plans to do there as well."

The parties also saw the report's release as a sign that an election will likely be held in September.

Said Mr Pwee: "We suspect this will lead to the PAP calling for a snap election within a month after National Day."





Analysts: Why keep six-member GRCs?
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

The retention of two jumbo group representation constituencies is likely to attract bewilderment if not criticism, four political observers said yesterday in comments on the newly redrawn electoral map.

Political scientist Derek da Cunha said: "The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee report will not satisfy everyone. But, in my opinion, one justifiable gripe that many people will likely have is the retention of six-member GRCs."

Their presence on the electoral landscape is all the more stark in the light of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's direction to the committee to shrink GRCs to an average of below five MPs, the analysts said.

As Dr da Cunha put it: "Six-member GRCs stand out like a sore thumb and their continued existence will likely perplex many people."

But he and the others acknowledged that the review committee was within the terms of reference set out by PM Lee, as the average size of each GRC is now 4.75 MPs.

As a result of the committee's work, the number of five-man GRCs has dropped to eight from 11, and the number of four-man GRCs has risen to six from two.

There are now 13 single-member constituencies (SMCs), one more than in the 2011 General Election.

"I was expecting to see some three-member GRCs, but am glad to see an increase in four-member GRCs," said sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said he was puzzled by the committee's recommendation to retain Ang Mo Kio GRC and Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC as six-man constituencies.

"It just flies against the whole tenor and rationale for smaller GRCs, which PM Lee first spoke about in 2009 and repeated last week in Parliament," he said.

National University of Singapore political scientist Hussin Mutalib agreed, saying: "The retention of the mega GRCs anchored by PM Lee in Ang Mo Kio and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Pasir Ris-Punggol did not go unnoticed."

The political observers also suggested the committee could have reduced both GRCs to five-member ones, by hiving off a ward in each to form two new SMCs.





East to see keenest fights, say observers
WP expected to zero in on 4-member East Coast GRC and the new Fengshan SMC
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

With the new electoral boundaries, the battles in the eastern part of Singapore will be even more keenly fought, said political observers.

They foresee the Workers' Party (WP) zeroing in once more on East Coast GRC - which has been trimmed from a five-man constituency to a four-man one - as well as the new single-member constituency (SMC) that has been carved out of it. The observers also declared that the electoral boundary changes, made public yesterday, are fair and did not surprise them.

Said political scientist Derek da Cunha: "The excitement in the coming election will clearly be centred on the eastern part of the island."

Citing the new Fengshan SMC, the analysts pointed out that it was part of East Coast GRC where the People's Action Party (PAP) won a hard-fought battle against the WP in the 2011 General Election.

The PAP got 54.8 per cent of the vote, its lowest vote share among all the GRCs it won.

Said Dr Lam Peng Er of the East Asian Institute: "I don't think it's a done deal that the ruling party will capture the Fengshan seat. It's up to voters. East Coast is one of the WP's relatively strong areas."

Both Dr Lam and Singapore Management University (SMU) associate professor of law Eugene Tan said former transport minister Raymond Lim, who is the MP for the Fengshan ward, is unlikely to be fielded again.

As for the new four-MP East Coast GRC, Dr Lam is predicting a "battle royale'' and added: "Some people are stepping down, so it's up for grabs."

Sengkang West SMC, which is close to WP-held Punggol East, is another site set for a keen fight.

The PAP won Sengkang West with 58.1 per cent of the vote in 2011 and since then, the WP has become increasingly active there.

The move is in line with its strategy not to spread itself thin but to focus on the east in the hope that "the east will be blue", Dr Lam said, referring to the WP's colour. He also noted the party's "modest goal in having a credible voice in Parliament rather than forming the government".

The boundary changes were largely viewed as fair by the analysts.

Said National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser: "Looking at the report alone, it does come across as adopting a reasonable, rational basis for the boundary changes. The opposition WP-held constituencies are left untouched."

They are Aljunied GRC, and Hougang and Punggol East SMCs.

Also left intact is Potong Pasir SMC, won by the PAP in the 2011 election but long held by veteran politician Chiam See Tong of the Singapore People's Party.

Said NUS political scientist Hussin Mutalib: "What many had guessed would happen - that the Government would redraw the GRCs such that the opposition would not only be caught by surprise but be severely disadvantaged - didn't materialise.

"In this sense, probable accusations of bias and unfairness will be muted."

The analysts also feel the opposition parties will find it easier to field teams, with the number of four-member GRCs raised to six, from two in 2011.

But opposition teams would cry foul over the redrawing of the boundaries of Moulmein-Kallang GRC and Joo Chiat SMC, they added.

Said NUS' Prof Tan: "If they had previously 'done well', that is above 40 per cent of the vote, they would consider it unfair."

Moulmein-Kallang GRC, which the PAP won with 58.6 per cent of the vote, has been split between the nearby GRCs of Bishan-Toa Payoh, Holland-Bukit Timah, Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar.

Joo Chiat SMC, made up of private homes and which the PAP won with a slim margin of 51 per cent of the vote, has been absorbed into Marine Parade GRC.

SMU's Prof Tan, who is a former Nominated MP, said the move of Joo Chiat, long left as an SMC, into a GRC could be perceived as unfair and for this reason, the committee should explain in greater detail why the electoral boundaries were changed.

"When you don't explain the reasons behind changes, it gives rise to speculation that the changes are gerrymandering.

"But if you give your reasons, people will be willing to take them in good faith," he said.

Additional reporting by Choo Yun Ting






Inderjit Singh announces his retirement from politics
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

Veteran Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh is retiring from politics.

The Ang Mo Kio GRC MP announced the move in a Facebook post last night addressed to residents and grassroots leaders of his Kebun Baru ward in the GRC.

He thanked them for their support, confidence and trust in him.

"I did my best to serve, and this would not have been possible without my team, the grassroots leaders and branch activists at Kebun Baru, who have become my extended family," he said.

Changes to electoral boundaries announced earlier saw the ward being moved from Ang Mo Kio GRC to Nee Soon GRC.

Mr Singh, 55, told The Straits Times his decision was not a hasty one. He asked to step down on Jan 2, 2013. He had approached Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the secretary-general of the People's Action Party and a fellow Ang Mo Kio GRC MP, with his request.

The businessman entered politics in the 1997 General Election, during which he and the PAP team were elected unopposed in Ang Mo Kio GRC.

In his 18 years as an MP, he made some hard-hitting speeches on the impact of economic restructuring, foreign labour curbs and rising business costs on small businesses. In 2007, he also warned of overcrowding and soaring costs as a result of the national growth policy.

His likely replacement is food-supply company executive director Henry Kwek, 39, who has been shadowing him at community events. Mr Kwek commented on the MP's farewell post, and thanked him for all he had done .

Said Mr Singh: "To Kebun Baru, Ang Mo Kio and everyone there, you will always be in my heart."





Factoring in population shifts and housing developments
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2015

The change in the number and distribution of registered voters, due to population shifts and housing developments, determines how electoral boundaries are drawn, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee said in its report, received by the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

It "reviewed all the existing electoral divisions, taking into account their current configurations, population shifts and housing developments since the last boundary delineation exercise", the report said.

There are an estimated 2,460,977 electors as of Aug 1 this year, which is 110,720 more than in 2011.

This means each of the 87 elected Members of Parliament today has an average of 28,300 electors.

The committee worked on the basis of a range of 20,000 to 37,000 voters per MP, allowing for a variation of 30 per cent as in past practice. In comparison, the range in 2011 was between 20,000 and 36,000 voters per MP. The only anomaly - which the committee did not explain - is single-seat Potong Pasir, which has 17,389 electors and whose boundaries remain unchanged. The seat was opposition-held for 27 years, until 2011.

The committee, which was formed in May, was also tasked to reduce the average size of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) to below five, and to have at least 12 Single- Member Constituencies (SMCs).

With the changes, which have been accepted by the Government, the total number of elected MPs will rise to 89 from the current 87.

This comprises 13 from SMCs and 76 from GRCs, up from 12 and 75 respectively in 2011.

The committee was also mindful that a GRC with fewer MPs should not have more voters than a GRC with more MPs. It proposed that the number of four-MP GRCs go up to six, from two, and that there be eight five-MP GRCs, down from 11. The number of six-MP GRCs remains at two. The average number of MPs per GRC will thus be 4.75, down from five in 2011.

The five-member committee is chaired by Mr Tan Kee Yong, secretary to the Prime Minister. Its other members are Housing Board chief executive Cheong Koon Hean, Singapore Land Authority chief executive officer Tan Boon Khai, Department of Statistics chief statistician Wong Wee Kim, and Elections Department head Lee Seng Lup.





DPM Teo: New boundaries keep playing field level
Changes more disruptive to incumbents as they have been working the ground, he says
By Amelia Teng, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2015

The latest changes to the electoral boundaries ahead of the next general election are fair and have kept the playing field level all round, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said.

"The incumbents are the ones who have the most disruption from any redrawing of boundaries because they are the ones who actually have been working the ground," he said in reply to questions from reporters at a constituency event in Punggol West yesterday.

"In the opposition-held wards, there have been no changes, so actually they face the least disruption.

"If you want to talk about fairness and all these kinds of things, I think the playing field is level, if you do your work on the ground consistently," Mr Teo added.

His comments come a day after the Government released the report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. There will be a rise in the number of MPs from 87 to 89, and they will come from 16 group representation constituencies (GRCs) and 13 single-member constituencies (SMCs).

There will also be six four-MP GRCs, up from two; eight five-MP GRCs, down from 11; and the same two six-MP GRCs.

The changes were milder than some had expected: Some 19 per cent of voters find themselves in a new constituency, fewer than the 30 per cent in 2011. The boundaries of Workers' Party-held Aljunied GRC, Hougang SMC and Punggol East SMC also remain intact.

While many analysts said the latest changes kept the playing field level, several WP members have criticised the fact that Joo Chiat SMC, which it lost to the People's Action Party by 388 votes in 2011, has been absorbed into Marine Parade GRC. Moulmein-Kallang GRC, where WP had stood, is also no more, having been carved up into Jalan Besar GRC and three existing GRCs.

Asked about the changes, Mr Teo said: "When the Prime Minister says that he wants to create more smaller GRCs, four-man GRCs, and more single (seats), there's bound to be some redrawing and recarving. I would look at the overall picture rather than specific instances.

"I suppose if you wanted to have more four-man GRCs, Aljunied could have become a four-man GRC. But the committee didn't touch it," he said, noting that some other five-man GRCs were resized.

The committee of five civil servants, chaired by Mr Tan Kee Yong, the Secretary to the PM, was asked to reduce the average number of MPs in a GRC from five to below five, and to have at least 12 SMCs. The committee said the changes took into account population shifts and new housing developments.

Mr Teo added that his Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC has had to cope with new boundaries at every general election because it has been growing at the fastest pace islandwide.

Asked about criticisms of gerrymandering at another event, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said most of Moulmein-Kallang GRC had in fact been reconstituted as Jalan Besar GRC. The new GRC is also broadly similar to the Jalan Besar GRC that existed prior to 2011, he added.

The boundaries signal that the general election is around the corner, and yesterday several MPs were also joined by potential candidates at constituency events.





PAP, opposition gear up for general election
PAP to name candidates after National Day; Workers' Party to contest 28 of the 89 seats
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Jul 2015

Political parties lost no time in spelling out their plans for the coming general election just two days after new electoral boundaries were set.

The People's Action Party (PAP) said almost all its candidates were already on the ground and would be formally named some time after National Day.

The Workers' Party (WP) said it would contest 28 of the 89 seats, and several other opposition parties named the constituencies they were eager to contest, as politicians from all sides went out in force to make the most of a Sunday to reach out to potential voters.

But PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen sought to put the next general election, which many expect to be called weeks after Aug 9, in perspective before "the heat of the hustings" begins.



He said the party had decided to deploy its new faces in their constituencies as early as possible so that voters have time to assess for themselves the calibre of candidates.

The PAP was doing so to reduce the element of chance and to improve the level of politics here, he told reporters in his Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC after handing out National Day funpacks to residents.

"As far as possible, we want to give residents as much information and first-hand experience with those who are going to take care of them in the next five years," said Dr Ng.

There is a political risk to deploying candidates early, he noted.

"Other parties may not choose to play it this way and can game it to their advantage," he added. "But we did this because we think this is ultimately a better type of politics that the PAP wants for Singapore."

Where possible, retiring PAP MPs will also introduce their successors. New faces were introduced by ministers in the past. The new format is more deliberate and dignified and will ensure a smooth transition, said Dr Ng.

The early rollout of new faces came about partly in response to feedback from residents that many PAP candidates were "parachuted" in just before the 2011 General Election. More importantly, the PAP does not want Singapore to go down the path of countries where politics is said to be becoming more and more like a lottery, said Dr Ng, who is also the Defence Minister.

In such places, voters are unsure of what they have chosen, parties make outlandish promises, and mudslinging occurs during election campaigns, he said. If Singapore went down this route, it would dissuade good people from entering politics, which would not be good for the country, he added.

Dr Ng said the PAP has also told its candidates not to engage in negative campaigning, but added that this does not preclude pointing out the flaws of other parties and their proposals, although personal attacks should be avoided.

He added that the coming election would be a "watershed" one, being the first since the death of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in March.

Opposition parties, meanwhile, expect to contest all 89 seats.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang said his party would focus its efforts on the east, as it did in 2011, while Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan said his party would similarly concentrate on seats in the north-west.

The National Solidarity Party will host a meeting of opposition parties on Friday to ensure they contest every seat and avoid multi-cornered fights, which are seen as advantageous to the PAP.





Plan for meeting to avoid split in opposition vote
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 27 Jul 2015

Opposition parties will meet on Friday to try and hammer out a deal on where they will field their respective candidates at the next general election.

The aim of the meeting is to avoid multi-cornered contests that will likely split the opposition vote in favour of the ruling People's Action Party, said Mr Sebastian Teo, president of the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

He told reporters at a party walkabout in Tampines GRC yesterday that the NSP is hosting the meeting this year, and will officially invite the other parties today.

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang and Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan both pledged yesterday to avoid multi-cornered fights as far as possible.

Such meetings to decide how to parcel out constituencies began in 2006, and will be keenly watched again this time as many opposition parties have canvassed support in the same constituencies.

Yesterday, the NSP and the Singaporeans First party (SingFirst) ran into each other at the same marketplace in Tampines GRC.

At least nine opposition parties are likely to field candidates in the next elections, which will have 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and 13 Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs).

An opposition party that contests a constituency in any general election has traditionally laid claim to that constituency in the subsequent general election.

But there are already many overlapping claims, making a collision inevitable if any of the parties refuses to budge. For example, the WP, the NSP and the year-old SingFirst have all expressed interest in Marine Parade GRC, where the NSP's team polled 43.4 per cent of the vote in 2011.

The upcoming election may also bring latent opposition rivalries to the fore.

The Singapore People's Party (SPP), led by opposition veteran Chiam See Tong, wants to run in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and Potong Pasir SMC, which it contested in 2011.

At the time, Mr Chiam ceded his candidacy in Potong Pasir, a seat which he held for 27 years, to his wife Lina - who lost by a wafer-thin margin of 114 votes.

The Democratic Progressive Party, which was dormant in 2011 and is now led by secretary-general Benjamin Pwee, is eyeing the two constituencies. Mr Pwee was an SPP candidate in 2011 but quit the party a year later.

SingFirst secretary-general Tan Jee Say said yesterday that, as a new party, it may be at a disadvantage because it has no history or prior election results to speak of.

But he added: "I hope parties will come with an open heart, and adopt a give-and-take attitude."

However, former Nominated MP Calvin Cheng said he disagrees with these horse-trading sessions: "Each opposition party stands for different things and different ideologies. It's very cynical for them to come together just to unseat the incumbent."





Opposition should have open GE meeting: RP
By Walter Sim and Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2015

The Reform Party (RP) has raised questions about the value of opposition parties having "a backroom meeting behind closed doors" to discuss where they intend to contest in the next general election and how to avoid multi-cornered fights.

A meeting is being hosted on Friday by the National Solidarity Party (NSP). While the RP wants this postponed as two key officers are on reservist training, it said in a Facebook post yesterday that its representatives will attend the meeting.

"Reform Party can hardly demand transparency and accountability of the PAP government while not practising it ourselves. This kind of meeting is a denial of the fundamental democratic rights of the citizens," it said in its post.

It added that it was "unfortunate" the NSP called the meeting "without consultation". "This kind of big show provides all the wrong kind of publicity. How much better to call an open meeting where, for example, every party gets to put forward its manifesto for five minutes. That is what we would call solidarity."

Going by interest expressed, multi-cornered fights look inevitable if a party refuses to budge: Workers' Party, NSP and Singaporeans First are interested in Marine Parade GRC, while the Singapore People's Party and Democratic Progressive Party are eyeing Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and Potong Pasir SMC.

In its post, RP said it has worked hard in Ang Mo Kio GRC, West Coast GRC and Radin Mas SMC. "The opposition has to change its ways. It is not enough to turn up every four or five years for a look-see or a photo opportunity. The residents live there every day, not just when the cameras come out," it said. "Fielding a weak candidate in a Single Member Constituency has a hugely negative impact on the statistics for the total percentage of voters who vote opposition."

NSP president Sebastian Teo said last night that almost all parties have responded, and the meeting will not be postponed. Mr Teo said if RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam is unable to attend, RP can send its requests to him and he will raise these on its behalf at the meeting.





Party comments over weekend telegraph their agendas, say analysts
By Joy Fang, TODAY, 28 Jul 2015

It may still be early days yet, with the next General Election (GE) weeks or months away, but the messages from the main political parties at the weekend — right after the electoral boundaries report was released on Friday — have been telling, in terms of the agendas of the various parties, analysts said yesterday.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has framed the GE in terms of leadership renewal, and would bank on its track record as it seeks a strong mandate to take the country forward in uncertain times, they added. The Workers’ Party (WP), on the other hand, could point to policy shifts in recent years — when it occupied seven of 87 parliamentary seats — as argument for a need for greater checks and balances.

Compared with the previous GE, the analysts also noted that social media would most likely play a bigger role this time round, partly due to the proliferation of sociopolitical websites.

Dr Carol Soon, a research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), said: “Digital technologies have levelled the playing field for both the PAP and the opposition parties, in terms of publicising their party platforms and promoting their candidates. Leveraging the instant reach of social media and avoiding the pitfalls, such as how not to let political gaffes become viral content, would be a common challenge (for the parties).”

Still, Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan did not think social media would be a game changer. Referring to sociopolitical websites, he said: “For them to be any use, they must reach out to voters who would otherwise not go to their site, and having reached out, can they persuade them to consider other political options? Otherwise, each site will continue to attract its own. It’s a self-selecting readership.”

On Sunday, the PAP’s organising secretary Ng Eng Hen called for fewer personal attacks and more serious debate during the campaigning period, and described the coming GE as a watershed, given that it would, for the first time, be held without founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March.

The analysts said the PAP was quick to claim the moral high ground in anticipation of negative campaigns from opposition parties. They added that the reference to Mr Lee was an indication that his legacy and that of other PAP pioneers could be evoked in an election year that marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence, and the PAP could also tie this in with the leadership renewal theme that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had highlighted in May as the most important issue in the GE.

Associate Professor Tan said: “(The PAP) would certainly want to try to draw the link between where Singapore is today (and) the PAP’s leadership and governance since 1959.”

On the SG50 celebrations, Dr Gillian Koh, a senior research fellow at IPS, said it was possible that “the social dynamics of celebrating a Golden Jubilee and holding a GE can pull in different directions”.

“With the GE looming, it will no longer just be a celebration of how far we have come, but probably a more sobering, politicised reckoning about that record. Some will highlight the price they paid, things or people they feel have been neglected or missteps or opportunities missed, and try to make political capital of these,” she said.

On its part, the WP, in a departure from tradition, made known the 28 seats it would be contesting out of the 89 in total — an implicit warning to other opposition parties to keep their hands off. But more importantly, it signals to the voters that the party is working on incremental change instead of trying to take over the Government, the analysts added.

National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh said: “The message is: Look, we are a responsible party ... (We’re) not a threat to the ruling party, but we want it to be a better and more responsive party.”

Assoc Prof Tan added that it was the WP’s assurance to voters that “even if you elect all 28 WP candidates, the PAP is still going to be in charge, as the WP is not even at the one-third threshold that would enable it to block constitutional changes”.

The analysts also noted that the WP was likely to ditch its 2011 GE slogan, Towards a First World Parliament, given the mixed performance of its Members of Parliament in the august chamber, and would again try to maximise its appeal in the heartlands. In any case, political parties tend to avoid reusing slogans, so as to reflect a forward-looking agenda, Assoc Prof Tan said.

The WP has come under sharp criticism in Parliament over its management of the finances of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council. But the analysts thought it was unlikely that the PAP would zoom in on this during the hustings. In fact, other opposition parties may bring up the issue so as to set themselves apart from the WP, they said.


Related
Report of the Electoral Boundaries. Review Committee 2015 -pdf download

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