High Stakes: GRC and the 2011 Singapore GE

Kevin Tan
Adjunct Professor of Law
National University of Singapore

I noted in my 1992 article, ‘The Constitutional Implications of the 1991 General Elections’ (1992) 13 Sing. L Rev 26 that the GRC system could cut both ways. While a strong personality (such as a respected minister) can waltz into Parliament with 4 or 5 silhouettes, the stakes can be quite high. This is why it would be unwise for the PAP to grow the GRC beyond a certain point. The election saw the revival of the 4-member GRC (albeit only in 2 constituencies – Moulmein-Kallang; and Holland-Bukit Timah), and a reduction of the number of 6-member GRCs. This indicates the PAP’s concern that should the scales tip against them, they could well end up losing 6 seats in one swoop.

Tin Pei Ling greeting a resident during GE campaigning, with Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in the background (Source: Straits Times, Photo: Neo Xiao Bin)

Just as a mighty minister may succeed in taking his team through, a maligned minister could also become the focus of odium and correspondingly bring his team crashing along with him as well. What I had not anticipated was the malignancy of the contagion. In particular, the impact a much-ridiculed candidate like Tin Pei Ling had on her colleagues, and indeed, on the Senior Minister in Marine Parade.

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