Among the many problems that plague Singapore’s political system gerrymandering is among the least talked about. While discourse about its flaws is dominated by speech restriction and defamation laws, gerrymandering is relegated to the sidelines as a side issue. The reason for this is that gerrymandering is a global problem and isn’t unique to Singapore which prevents foreign media interest and local media rarely reports changes in voting boundaries as anything more than a sideline story.
To those who do not know what gerrymandering is, It is the practice of drawing voting districts in such a way to favour one party as shown in the infographic below. This problem typically occurs where those responsible for drawing voting lines are appointed by elected officials which are the case in Singapore where the election department, the authority responsible for drawing up the voting boundaries are under the direct control of the prime minister^1. This has led to the PAP being able to get 93% of the parliamentary seats despite only winning 70% of the vote ^1. This problem is hardly unique to Singapore and is found in almost all western democracies from the UK to the US but that doesn’t reduce it’s importance at all.
Conventional gerrymandering is rendered even more effective by Singapore GRC system where multi-member districts are awarded on a winner take all basis. This has the effect of drastically increasing the importance of tiny majorities as was seen in the Aljunied GRC in the last election where the Worker party was able to claim 6 seats despite only winning the district by 1% of the votes. In an ironic twist, that district was created to deny the worker party the chance to win various awards they might have won previously by bundling them together with pro-pap areas but only served to cause the PAP to loose all of it.
You might be asking what Possible solution there is for a problem like this. The solution is to simply abolish all voting districts in Singapore and Instead have people vote directly for parties and then distributing seats to parties in proportion to the vote they got. so let’s say the PAP got 70% of the vote and the WP got 30%. We would take the total number of elected members of parliament and divide that number by a 100. This would give 1.12 which would be the percent needed to gain 1 MP. We would then divide the parties vote share by 1.12 to get the number of seats they receive. The PAP would 62 seats and have .6% of the vote left while the while the worker party would get 26 seats with .8% of the vote left. Seeing as the worker party has more votes left over they gain the 1 spare seat so the final total is 62 seats PAP and 27 seats WP far more representative of the population than the current vote split. This isn’t some new untried system countries as dozens of countries across the world ranging from Israel to Germany use variants of this system to elect their parliament
You might argue that this system gives no way to guarantee minority representation but that could simply be achieved by demanding party MP lists has to be some percent minority representation. Very few people in Singapore vote for specific MP’s but instead vote for parties like in much of the world. Few Singaporeans identify with electoral districts or have any ties to them given their shifting nature. The biggest complaint people might have with this system would be that would loose their personal MP but that could easily be addressed making sure that Each every MP in a party would have to manage a certain areas complaints. This would allow people to bring their complaints to MP’s from different parties and see which is able to address them better allowing people to judge parties more fairly
In conclusion, gerrymandering is a large problem in Singapore that has an incredibly easy solution which simply lacks the political will to be implemented due to the current political climate. Few arguments for the creation of districts exist in Singapore due to the it’s small size. Proportional representation also wouldn’t lead to dysfunctional government as the PAP is still able to reliably command majorities preventing unstable colation government from becoming common while at the same time providing more democratic system to them.