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Electoral boundaries panel formed in May: PM Lee

He rejects suggestion by WP's Yee Jenn Jong to include representatives from various political parties

The committee that reviews the boundaries for election in Singapore was formed two months ago in May and is now preparing its report, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told parliament on Monday.


THE committee that reviews the boundaries for election in Singapore was formed two months ago in May and is now preparing its report, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told parliament on Monday.

Revealing this in response to queries by two members of parliament, Mr Lee said that he had asked the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) to consider the population shifts and housing developments since the last boundary delineation exercise.

He also asked for smaller group representation constituencies (GRCs) in order to reduce their average size to below five members, and to have at least 12 single member constituencies (SMCs). Currently, there are 15 GRCs with a total of 75 MPs, as well as 12 SMCs.

"(The EBRC) is now in the midst of its deliberations and will make its recommendations to me when ready," said Mr Lee, without giving a definitive timeframe.

He was speaking in response to questions by two MPs - Arthur Fong of the ruling People's Action Party and non-constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong of the opposition Workers' Party (WP) - on whether the committee had been formed.

In the build-up to the last two general elections (GEs), in May 2006 and May 2011, the committee took about four months after its formation to issue its report.

While there is no fixed time frame for an election to be called after the report is submitted to the prime minister, this has taken anywhere from one day to eight weeks in the past.

Singaporeans must go to the polls by January 2017 at the latest, although many expect a GE to take place in the next few months.

When Mr Yee asked if there could be a minimum period of, say, six months between the publication of the EBRC's report and the calling of a GE to allow people to adjust to the boundary changes, Mr Lee said he could not promise doing so.

"It depends very much on the exigencies of the situation and on when elections become necessary," said the prime minister.

The EBRC is chaired by Tan Kee Yong, who is the current Secretary to the Prime Minister, and comprises a small group of civil servants.

Mr Tan, a veteran in the Administrative Service, has held a number of high-level posts including Deputy Secretary (Services) at the Education Ministry and chief executive of the Singapore Land Authority.

The WP's Mr Yee also asked if the committee's members could include representatives of various political parties in Singapore in future, as was the practice before Singapore's independence in 1965.

Mr Lee replied that, for many years, the committee was made up of civil servants who have "domain knowledge that enable them to make considered decisions" on how to divide up the constituencies.

This would avoid a situation where there was a "complete upheaval" each time the boundaries have to be re-drawn, he added.

"As for bringing political parties in, I'm not sure that's an entirely good idea," said Mr Lee, explaining that this was the practice in the United States, where the House of Representatives decide on the demarcation of boundaries.

"Usually what happens is that they carve it up among themselves. It's a political deal, and that's not a good arrangement. It's best to leave it to the civil servants to work at.

Mr Lee also said that it was better to let the EBRC decide if it wanted to publish the minutes of their meetings, which Mr Yee had asked for.

The prime minister, however, did not think that this would be a good idea.

"I don't believe that it is helpful to have every twist and turn in the minutes reported and published. I think the committee's report is the final word," he said.

After the last revision to the electoral rolls, the Elections Department announced in April that there are 2,460,484 eligible voters, an increase of more than 100,000 from the last election in 2011.