New Elections Boundaries
5 hours ago, the Government just released the Map for the Electoral Boundaries. According to the report, the coming elections will continue to have 14 Group Representation Constituencies or GRCs. However, there will be one new GRC: Holland-Bukit Timah which replaces Holland-Bukit Panjang.
Changes have been made to Single Member Constituencies as well. The Ayer Rajah and Bukit Timah constituencies will be gone - both are wards with veteran politicians. Two new single seats have been created; they are in Yio Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang.
The total number of single wards remains at nine, as at the last election. There will be nine GRCs with five MPs and five GRCs with six MPs. East Coast is now a 5-member GRC, down from the previous 6. Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC will have 6 MPs, up from the previous 5. The total number of MPs to be returned remains at 84.
The “Battle Ground”:
Aljunied GRC has changed in boundaries. Everyone knows that Worker’s Party will contest in that GRC. FM George Yeo also announced that he will stand for that GRC. This will be the main stage for the GE battle. Previously, the candidates for the PAP were Ong Seh Hong, Cynthia Phua, Yeo Guat Kwang, George Yong-Boon Yeo and Zainul Abidin Rasheed. We would expect some new faces in place of some of the present MPs.
The Dissolved SMCs
Ayer Rajah SMC (under Dr Tan Cheng Bock), and Bukit Timah SMC (under Wong Kai Yuen) have been dissolved. Tan Cheng Bock won the last elections by the strongest percentage of 87.96% against Tan Lead Shake from DPP. Wong Kai Yuen also won the seat with a strong percentage of 77.37% against 2 other oppositions (Tan Kim Chuang – Independent, Tong Meng Chye – SDA). I think quite needless to say both Dr Tan and Wong are likely to step down for this GE.
The New SMCs
New SMCs, such as Yio Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang, have been created leaving the number of SMCs unchanged. Both Yio Chu Kang SMC and Bukit Panjang SMC, made their last GE appearance in 1988. During then, the PAP won Yio Chu Kang with 73.67% while winning Bukit Panjang by only 57.28% (3 contesting candidates). Previously, Yio Chu Kang was under Ang Mo Kio GRC, and within it, Seng Han Tong (PAP) was the MP for Yio Chu Kang Division. Bukit Panjang was a sub-division of Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC, with Mayor Dr Teo Ho Pin as their MP.
The question remains that who will be contesting in these wards, Seng Han Tong and Teo Ho Pin or new candidates? Releasing new SMCs can be a tricky issue and knowing PAP’s kiasu stance towards winning, they might rather put more established candidates over new entrants. All SMCs will be contested by the oppositions and PAP would still play safe with it. Bukit Panjang is a relative “young (in terms of age of population)” township.
As for Yio Chu Kang, the population is rather elderly but has seen several upgrading projects within the district. Apartment values of both have increased moderately over the past years and don’t have significant issues of concern. Seng Han Tong (PAP) is a Chinese-educated and Mandarin (and Hokkien) speaking candidate, who don’t really converse well in English. He might be too much of a risk if he is chosen for the SMC. Another possible candidate for this ward is Senior Minister of State Dr Balaji Sadasivan who is also under Ang Mo Kio GRC (under Cheng San). As an Indian, his strength lies in his ability to converse in Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, (of course English). He is a strong enough candidate but has no election battle experience since his GRC was a walkover. However, I don’t think PAP will risk an up-and-coming potential Cabinet Minister into an SMC (if he does contest in the SMC, likely to mean that he will not be promoted soon. Full Ministers don’t usually contest in SMC as the workload of a Minister and single ward MP is too heavy). This will be an interesting ward to keep a lookout for.
East Coast GRC shrunk from a 6-member to a 5 member GRC. Presently, Abdullah Tarmugi, Chew Heng Ching, Lee Yock Suan, Lim Siang Keat Raymond, S Jayakumar and Tan Soo Khoon were the PAP incumbents of the ward. Uncontested in the previous elections, but is likely to see changes in this GRC. Lee Yock Suan looks certain to step down but the key question is Jayakumar. If he is there, the ward will be uncontested. If he announced his intentions to step-down, then opposition will contest. My guess is that he will stand for this coming election and step-down as DPM after 6 months to 1 year. Thus, this will be one GRC where they will have 2 Cabinet Ministers instead of one. In the case where Jayakumar steps down, there is still an anchor Minister in place.
Pasir Ris-Ponggol GRC expanded to a 6-member GRC from a 5 member GRC. The rationale is probably to dilute the effect of unhappy residents over two key issues: 1) Bad handling of Buangkok MRT’s opening, and 2) Unhappy residents over lost of value in houses at Ponggol 21. Presently, Ahmad Magad, Charles Chong, Michael Lim, Penny Low and Teo Chee Hean are the MPs for this ward. Likely, there will be a strengthening of this GRC with an additional of a Minister of State. There might be a possibility that Senior Minister of State Prof Ho Peng Kee will join this GRC. Ho Peng Kee is likely to take over the position as the Minister for Law and Home Affairs should Jayakumar retire after elections (DPM Wong Kan Seng might then take over Jayakumar’s portfolio and Ho Peng Kee will take over some portfolio from Wong Kan Seng). In doing so, contesting and serving in a SMC might be too much work for and Minister-MP. Just a hunch.
Having a 6 member team will increase the amount of election deposit. It was uncontested in the previous GE and increasing the number of MPs might act as a “deterrent” to any potential contest. But the opposition, though they have only slight hope of winning, should contest in this ward. This GRC has some outstanding issues which oppositions can capitalize on which might be useful to generate arguments during the campaign.
The most likely uncontested wards are Tanjong Pagar GRC (led by MM Lee Kuan Yew, 6-members GRC), Marina Parade GRC (led by SM Goh Chok Tong, 6-members GRC), West Coast GRC (led by Lim Hng Kiang, 5-members GRC), Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (led by DPM Wong Kan Seng, 5-members GRC), Holland-Bukit Timah GRC (led by Lim Swee Say and Vivian Balakrishnan, 5-member GRC), Pasir Ris-Ponggol GRC (led by Teo Chee Hean, 6-members GRC) and possibly, Ang Mo Kio GRC (led by PM Lee Hsien Loong, 5-members GRC). As for Ang Mo Kio GRC, some say that oppositions will purposely keep the “big-guns” such the Prime Minister busy and on their toes by contesting in their wards. Not to win the GRC but to distract them from moving to other wards too often. However with the GRC system in place, the opposition has not done that often.
These “uncontestations” are a conservative estimate. Should this be true, PAP will not return to power on nomination day as 38 seats are uncontested and 46 seats are contested. However, a lot depends on the resources of the opposition and their strategies. The “by-election” strategy, deployed by Chiam See Tong, was to allow the PAP to retain power during nomination day and push the message that voters can vote with the opposition since PAP is already in power and “need not require” their votes. It worked during 1991, but has not been as effective in the recent elections.
All 9 SMC will be contested. The interesting battles will likely to be on Potong Pasir SMC, Hougang SMC, Chua Chu Kang SMC and Nee Soon East SMC. Potong Pasir and Hougang’s battles need not to be explained as their battle-lines are drawn and obvious to most. The interesting SMCs are Chua Chu Kang SMC (previously Steve Chia vs Low Seow Chay), where Steve Chia did reasonably well with 34.66% of the votes and Nee Soon East SMC, where Ho Peng Kee was embroiled in the Temple incident. Steve Chia still has a court case pending against him and may not be able to contest for this GE. But it would be interesting consider Chua Chu Kang was the SMC with the lowest winning margin for PAP of 65.34%.
In the last GE, Nee Soon East flared up red-hot on the electoral map because of trouble between some grassroots leaders and temple folk over procedures for Hungry Ghost Festival celebrations. At one point, bookies gave it 50-50 odds, with PAP's Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee facing off WP's Dr Poh. But Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew stepped in to smooth relations and PAP candidate Ho Peng Kee won the single seat with a solid 73.7 % of the votes. It remains to be seen if Prof Ho will still contest in this ward or others.
As for the contested GRCs, Sembawang GRC (formerly led by DPM Tony Tan), Tampines GRC (led by Mah Bow Tan), Jurong GRC (led by Lim Boon Heng and Tharman Shanmugaratnam), Jalan Besar GRC (led by Lee Boon Yang), Hong Kah GRC (led by Yeo Cheow Tong) and the highlight, Aljunied GRC (led by George Yeo), are likely to see changes of Ministers. Lee Boon Yang, Lim Boon Heng and Tony Tan are likely to step-down and possibly replaced by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Khaw Boon Wan and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.