Thursday, 16 July 2015

Countdown to the GE begins

With Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s parliamentary reply yesterday confirming the formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) two months ago, the signs are clearer that Singapore’s 12th General Election (GE) will be held in this Golden Jubilee year of independence. However, his reply does not provide clarity as to when the GE will be called. The ruling People’s Action Party craves the element of surprise as to when exactly the nation will go to the polls.

The EBRC’s task is to provide for fair and balanced representation through adjusting electoral boundaries by looking at population shifts and housing developments since the previous boundary delineation exercise in early 2011.

Given that there are 2.46 million eligible voters today, and assuming that the current Member-of-Parliament-to-voter ratio of one to 26,000 is maintained, there could be as many as 94 or 95 electoral seats, up from the current 87. However, the EBRC may recommend a smaller increase or no change in the number of elected Members of Parliament (MPs). Incremental change is always preferred in our political system.

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7 Completely Random Events That Happened In The 2 Months That EBRC Was Formed

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in Parliament recently (13 July) that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) was formed 2 months ago. PM Lee was responding to MPs Yee Jenn Jong and Arthur Fong’s questions regarding the status of the EBRC.

The knowledge of the EBRC’s formation two months ago is perhaps exclusive only to the Prime Minister and the EBRC itself.

This new information set us thinking. What are some of the major things that happened in the past 2 months?
  • Anti-Government Voices have been dealt with
  • Ministers were very obvious in sporting events
  • PM Lee gave odd analogies on Election Date
  • WP were embroiled in a saga
  • Goodies were announced to be dispensed
  • MPs became more down to Earth
  • Initiatives in WP-held and close-call wards
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Opposition cries foul, calls for more lead time before polls
Supporters of the Workers' Party after the final rally for the Punggol East by-election in 2013. TODAY file photo

Despite the prospects of a major redrawing of electoral boundaries and the short reaction time should the General Election (GE) be called as early as September, opposition parties said yesterday (July 13) they were confident their preparations would not be derailed.

Nevertheless, some of them cried foul that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had kept the formation of the electoral boundaries review committee under wraps for the last two months, and called on him to ensure that there is sufficient time lag between the release of the committee’s report and the dissolution of Parliament.

On its website, the Singapore Democratic Party called on Mr Lee to “ensure that at least two months are given from the time of the announcement of the new boundaries to the dissolution of Parliament”.

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Opposition Parties United in Their Condemnation of EBRC Formation Without Their Knowledge

Much fury has been directed at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the government from opposition party leaders, after PM Lee announced the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee was formed 2 months ago.

The opposition is worred that there will not be enough time to prepare for the General Election, which must be held by January 2017.


There’s also unhappiness over PM Lee keeping the formation of the EBRC a secret for 2 months.

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Signs Point to a June/September 2015 General Elections for Singapore?

Not long after Mao’s death the Chinese Communist Party announced that he had been 70% right, 30% wrong. This official view has not changed despite the changes in China: from underachiever to wannabe great power, challenging US hegemony.

What does the PAP think about how right and wrong LKY had been? Going by the spin by the constructive, nation-building media, one assumes 100% right. LKY did no wrong. He even was a nice, compassionate human being. Btw, readers might like to be reminded that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a prisooner in Stalin’s gulag camps, reported that prisoners cried when Stalin died: there was even genuine grief among those who suffered because of his actions^.

And the vigilantism against those with the “unright” views, shows the PAP IB stroking the genuine respect that many S’poreans feel for LKY. To be fair, some of the anti-PAP views on LKY are going too far. Even at the more reasonable end of the “unright” views, TOC and P(olitican) Ravi seem to want to make him one of the crowd that did great and good things for S’pore. Hello guys, he was the head of the PAP and PM of S’pore. Surely the leader deserves a bit more credit than his team, even if it was a team effort?

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S’pore General Election can be called within 2 months’ time
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament today that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee was formed two months ago — which means, it was formed some time in May 2015 and there was no declaration of it.

In the lead-up to the two previous General Elections in 2006 and 2011, the committee took about four months after being formed to issue its report. In other words, the next GE can be called within two months, just after National Day and SG50 celebrations. 

In fact, GE could occur during the 92nd birthday of the late Lee Kuan Yew, which falls on September 16, 2015.

PM Lee also asked the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee to have smaller Group Representation Constituencies, and to have at least 12 Single Member Constituencies.

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong controls Electoral Boundaries Review Committee

Through the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) chaired by his secretary, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will reduce the size of Group Representation Constituencies to below 5 and increase the number of Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) to at least 12.

Currently there are 14 GRCs with five or six MPs, and 9 SMCs. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will also consider the population shifts and housing developments when crafting the electoral boundaries of the constituencies. When questioned by Opposition MP Yee Jenn Jong who criticized the Prime Minister for usually calls for an election on the very next day he announce the electoral boundary report, PM Lee Hsien Loong declined to give a commitment for a minimum period like six months but simply said he will allow “enough time”:
“The committee will publish its report to the maximum extent possible. We will make sure there’s enough time elapsed so that everybody can read the report, understand it and know where they stand before elections are called. But I don’t think it is possible to say that we promise a certain minimum period such as six months, because it depends very much on the exigencies on the situation and on when elections become necessary.”
Although the Chairman of the EBRC committee reports to the Prime Minister, PM Lee Hsien Loong tries to disassociate himself from the demarcation of electoral boundaries saying only “civil servants who have domain knowledge” and expertise draft up the demarcation:

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Drawing of electoral boundaries: A process in sore need of reform

In January 2015, when questioned about whether the Electoral Boundary Review Committee (EBRC) had been set up, Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong said: “When we set it up, everyone will know”. (“PM Lee: Electoral Boundaries Review Committee yet to be set up” – Straits Times 16 January 2015)

Today (13 July 2015), the Prime Minister told Parliament that the EBRC had been formed two months ago and was now in the midst of preparing its recommendations for submission. The Prime Minister revealed this statement in response to direct questioning by two Members of Parliament: Workers’ Party’s Mr Yee Jenn Jong and PAP’s Mr Arthur Fong.

The worrying fact remains that the EBRC had already been convened two months ago without public knowledge. That the news of the EBRC’s formation only surfaced today upon questioning characterizes the secrecy and the lack of transparency surrounding the EBRC. The EBRC’s processes are obscure and their considerations are hidden from the public eye. The only insight into EBRC and their work is from the EBRC reports that are presented to Parliament before elections.

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Appoint members of various political parties to EBRC: SDA

With regards to PM Lee’s and the government’s appointed electoral boundaries review committes for the constituencies, without the knowledge of the people, we feel utterly disappointed.

With regards to the review of constituency to fall under the care of which civil servant, we absolutely do not question whether there is existence of unfairness, unjustness or lack of transparency!

However, if we the citizens could participate in this, surely there won’t be anyone doubting the existence of unfairness, unjustness and opacity in these practices!

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REFORM PARTY: WE ARE DISGUSTED WITH LEE HSIEN LOONG'S RELEVATIONS!

Like his father before him, the Prime Minister has never felt confident of winning a free and democratic election fairly on his Government’s record and policies. He continues to shamelessly:

Maintain complete control of the media through outright ownership and legislation that gives the state a monopoly or the right to demand editorial control. Since the last election he has brought even the online media under his control through new rules including closing one of the last remaining online newspapers not under the Government’s control on the vague charge of stirring up anti-foreigner sentiment.

Use state resources to bribe and intimidate voters and to defend his reputation in private lawsuits against individuals who have criticised him in a manner that would be deemed corrupt in most democratic countries.

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Electoral Committee quietly formed 2 months ago
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

In Parliament today (13 Jul), NCMP Yee Jenn Jong from WP posed the following questions to PM Lee:
  • (a) whether the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) has been formed and, if so, who are the members of the Committee;
  • (b) if not, when will it be formed;
  • (c) when will the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee’s report be published; and
  • (d) what is the likely duration from the publication of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee’s report to the calling of a general election.
In response, PM Lee was forced to admit that the committee was formed two months ago. The formation of EBRC, which redraws constituency boundaries ahead of a GE, is the first step towards calling one.

He said that he had asked the committee to draw up smaller GRCs and to have at least 12 SMCs. He also wants the average size of the GRCs to be reduced to below 5 candidates.

related: PAP spends $600K on mobile clinics for oppo wards

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Secretary to PM chairs Electoral Boundaries Review Committee
Mr Tan Kee Yong, the Secretary to the PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong disclosed in Parliament on Monday that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) is being chaired by Mr Tan Kee Yong, the Secretary to the PM and the Secretary to the Cabinet.

Mr Lee said this in response to Workers’ Party Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Yee Jenn Jong, who had also asked the former if the committee had been convened.

Mr Lee said it was formed two months ago. From news reports of Mr Lee’s parliamentary answer, it is unclear who are the other members of the EBRC, except that they “comprise a small number of civil servants.”

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Time enough for all to digest report: PM

Shortly after announcing that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee had been formed two months ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong assured the House there would be time for everyone to digest the committee's report once it was published

"To the maximum extent possible, we will make sure that there is enough time elapsed so that everybody can read the report, understand it and know where they stand before elections are called.

"But I don't think it is possible to say that we promise a certain minimum period, such as six months, because it depends very much on the exigencies of the situation and on when elections become necessary," Mr Lee said.

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Electoral boundaries panel formed in May: PM Lee
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. PHOTO: ST FILE

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.

related
Electoral boundaries committee formed in May, report not yet ready: PM Lee
When's the GE? Hint could come in parliament on Monday
Two Singapore MPs seek updates on electoral boundaries committee's formation


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How the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee decides on GRCs and SMCs
The formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) is the clearest indication yet of impending elections

The Prime Minister forms the committee, which usually comprises five civil servants and is headed by the Secretary to the Prime Minister.

The EBRC is tasked with drawing up the boundaries for the various constituencies before a General Election. It is usually guided by the number and distribution of registered voters and takes into account population shifts in the various constituencies.

It will also take into consideration specific requests by the Prime Minister, such as the number of Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) and Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

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Opposition Parties Are Rather Displeased That PM Lee Did Not Announce EBRC Formation
No one expected such a move from PM Lee

Yesterday (13 July) in Parliament, PM Lee trolled the opposition parties in Singapore when he announced that he had kept the formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) under wraps for the last two months.

Understandably, the opposition parties in Singapore were not too happy. The Opposition were almost united in calling the Prime Minister to ensure that there will be a reasonable amount of time buffer between the release of the EBRC’s report and the dissolution of the Parliament.

They also released their own reactions to show how miffed they were.

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Smaller GRCs, Bigger Stakes?

After much speculation about when the next general elections will be held, the machinery heaved into motion on 13 July when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) overseeing the delineation of the Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and Single Member Constituencies (SMCs), was formed two months ago. It would seem that the election wheels have been turning for some time.

Braema Mathi, president of human rights group MARUAH, took issue with the manner in which the EBRC was announced and said that the drawing of the electoral boundaries needs to be in “a transparent manner and the procedure should be accessible to the public through a consultation process”.

The Prime Minister announced, without prior notice, that he had asked the EBRC to keep the average size of the GRCs below five members and to have at least 12 SMCs, which is the current number of SMCs. When the EBRC’s report is released, there could well be more single wards.

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When will the next General Election occur?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently announced that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) was formed two months back. The EBRC will draw up election boundaries, which, going by the most recent elections, will likely take another two months. Polling has historically occurred between 17 days and six months after the boundaries are drawn, so there is some uncertainty over when elections will be.


The number of days between the two events - drawing the boundaries and elections - averaged 43 days since the 1991 elections, and ranged between 17 to 71 days. Using this information, I calculated the probability that elections would occur by a certain date. The results are summarised in the chart below.

Elections are unlikely to occur in the first week of October (also considering that it is the PSLE examination week), but has half a chance of occurring by 28 October. The cumulative probability is practically 100% by 1st Jan, hence elections are quite certainly going to occur within the year.

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Guessing the next election date

Guess work on when Singapore’s next General Elections (GE) would be held will now intensify amongst grassroots leaders, party activists, politicians, would-be candidates and the man-in-the street, now that the first salvo has been fired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee announced in Parliament on Monday, 13 July 2015 that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, which looks at the current state of play of the composition of the voter population and recommends the boundaries for the next election, has been set up.

The committee made up of top civil servants is headed by the Secretary to the Prime Minister.

And when the report does come out, Singaporeans will know whether any new constituencies are being carved out, existing ones re-named and whether they would be voting under the same constituency banner or a new one depending on the Report.

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Full Coverage:
Online Citizen: Secretary to PM chairs Electoral Boundaries Review Committee
THE BUSINESS TIMES: Electoral boundaries panel formed in May: PM Lee
AsiaOne: Election on the cards; boundaries panel formed
The Straits Times: Boundaries panel should be independent
AsiaOne: Time enough for all to digest report: PM
TODAYonline: SDA 'disappointed' at 'private redistricting' of constituencies
AsiaOne: Smaller GRCs, more seats could see more contests
Channel News Asia: Opposition cries foul, calls for more lead time before polls
AsiaOne: Smaller GRCs likely come next S'pore general election
The Online Citizen: “When it's set up, everyone will know”: PM Lee in January
TODAYonline: Countdown to the GE begins
TODAYonline: Electoral boundaries panel tasked to look into having smaller GRCs
TODAYonline: Next General Election could be imminent
Channel News Asia: EBRC convened, PM Lee tells Parliament
Channel News Asia: How the EBRC decides on GRCs and SMCs
The Online Citizen: Political fairness in drawing electoral boundaries
SDP: Incredible that PM kept EBRC appointment a secret
MSN: PM Lee Announces Formation Of EBRC, Hints GE Is Incoming
TheMiddleGround: Eyeing upcoming GE, MPs speak up on BTO defects
Six-six: Smaller GRCs, Bigger Stakes?
Blogging for Myself: Lessons from David Marshall: Choosing the PM
Tots of a Cynical Investor: SG 50: In 1950s, Harry, PAP already loved FTs
Number Cucumber: When will the next General Election occur?
Musings From the Lion City: Have Confidence
Singapore 2B: PAP’s strategy revisited (or why I am not PAP election strategist)
Dewdrop Notes 露语: Warning Orders
Ricebowl Sg: Such Blatant Manipulation of Electoral System No Place in Democracy
Five Stars and a Moon: Guessing the next election date
New Nation: S’poreans look forward to PM Lee Hsien Loong say sorry at GE2015
Mothership: 10 reactions to PM’s electoral boundaries you do not need to know

related:
EBRC 2015 Report: What's next
EBRC 2015 Report: Battle's Begun
EBRC Report 2015: Staking Claims
EBRC 2015 Report: Who's Where
Countdown to the GE begins
Snap General Elections in 2015?
Fourth generation political leadership taking shape
Order of Succession And Baton Passing
Snap General Elections in 2014/2015?
Snap General Election in Sep 2015?