As the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) sets about its work in preparation for Singapore GE 2015, opposition supporters and opposition parties have started to cast doubt on the work that the EBRC is doing by accusing the Committee of gerrymandering. MP for Eunos GRC Pritnam Singh even took a swipe at the EBRC on his FB page.
In politics, gerrymandering, is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating electoral boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts.Gerrymandering is present in leading western democracies like Australia, Canada, the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. However, unlike gerrymandering in these countries, the redrawing of electoral boundaries in Singapore is necessitated by the completion of new housing estates that result in significant shifts our population. For example, the Single-Member Constituency (SMC) of Sengkang West has grown so much since 2011 that it now exceeds the last electoral boundaries committee's prescribed ratio of 20,000 to 36,000 voters per MP. Sengkang West’s voter numbers has swelled by 47 per cent from 26,882 in 2011 to 39,586 in the Elections Department's last count.
In fact, some political science research suggests that contrary to common belief, gerrymandering does not decrease electoral competition but in fact increases it. This is because rather than packing all the voters of their party into fewer wards, party leaders would spread their party's voters into more wards so that their party can win more seats. In situations where the ruling party is not decisively dominant, this “distribution” of voters in turn gives weaker opposition parties a fighting chance.
In short, opposition parties that clamour for Singapore to have a first world-democracy like the US and the UK should realise that we are indeed following in the foot-steps of these “leading” democracies. Gerrymandering is not a PAP-invented concept and it is a practice of first-world democracies. Additionally, gerrymandering does not necessarily benefit the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). Gerrymandering forces an equal distribution of voters and this will benefit the weaker opposition parties in Singapore.
So instead of crying foul, opposition parties should be thanking the PAP for giving them a chance.