SINGAPORE : One of the group representation constituencies in the Singapore General Election scheduled for Friday is unique in several ways.
The East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC), as it is called, will see People’s Action Party (PAP) first assistant secretary-general Heng Swee Keat (pic) leading a team to defend the GRC in a straight contest with the Workers’ Party.
Interestingly, Swee Keat is tipped to be the next prime minister of Singapore after Lee Hsien Loong steps down.
The East Coast GRC is the largest electoral division, by area, among all the 31 electoral divisions in the upcoming election.
It is noteworthy that the division, as announced on Feb 1, 2019, in the website of the republic’s Elections Department (ELD), includes at least five islands off the Singapore east coast – namely Pulau Ketam, Pulau Ubin, Pulau Sekudu, Pulau Tekong and Pedra Branca (known as Pulau Batu Puteh in Malaysia).
Singaporeans, as well as Malaysians, are not unfamiliar with the 8,560-sq-metre Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Puteh, located 44 km from the main island of Singapore.
It was one of the islands of contention between Singapore and Malaysia.
In May 2008, the International Court of Justice found that Singapore has sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh; that Malaysia has sovereignty over Middle Rocks/Batuan Tengah; and that sovereignty over South Ledge/Tubir Selatan belongs to the State in the territorial waters of which it is located.
Now, back to the East Coast GRC. It was formed in 1997 as a six-member electoral division, reduced to a five-member GRC in the 2006 and 2011 general elections and to a four-member GRC in the last general election, in 2015.
The latest revision saw it back again as a five-member GRC with 121,772 registered electors, an increase from the 99,118 in 2015.
The ELD website says the group contesting a GRC may be made up of three to six individuals.
For this election, there are 17 GRCs comprising six four-member GRCs and 11 five-member GRCs.
The registered electors of a GRC will vote for a group of individuals to be their members of parliament (MPs), who must be from the same political party or are all independents.
The Singapore GRC system was established in 1988 to ensure that the minority racial communities in Singapore will always be represented in Parliament.
At least one of the MPs in the group representing a GRC must belong to a minority racial community, either the Malay, Indian or other minority communities.
The East Coast GRC is among the 11 GRCs, with at least one member belonging to the Malay community while the six GRCs will have at least one member belonging to the Indian or other minority communities.
Dr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs of the caretaker government, is one of Swee Keat’s comrades in the contest for the East Coast GRC.
The largest electoral division in terms of population is the five-member Ang Mo Kio GRC, with 185,465 voters, where caretaker prime minister and PAP secretary-general Hsien Loong leads the charge for PAP.
The Singapore Parliamentary Elections Act requires that at least one-quarter of the total number of MPs must be representatives of GRCs and there must be at least eight SMCs (Single Member Constituencies) at any election. In this election, there are 14 SMCs.
As of April 15, 2020, there were 2,653,942 electors in the Register of Electors.
Polling is on Friday.