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Monday, March 9, 2015, 08:59

Options explored to refine universal suffrage

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Without falling outside the parameter laid down by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) in a resolution on Aug 31, 2014, political parties have put forward various options to refine the election method in an attempt to win the support of the opposition lawmakers.

The Hong Kong government, having concluded the second stage of public consultation on last Saturday, is aiming to table a reform proposal at the Legislative Council in April.

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said at a forum on Saturday that the government has received over 100,000 suggestions from the public on the design of the universal suffrage election for the Chief   Executive in 2017.

NC composition

The Aug 31 resolution mandates the Nominating Committee (NC), under universal suffrage election of the CE, to adopt the four-pillar structure from the existing 1,200-member Election Committee without expansion or major revamp.

Agriculture and fisheries, a sub-sector with 60 electors, has become the obvious target. Liberal Party suggested that this sub-sector should give away two-thirds of its seats to representatives of youth and women.

Meanwhile, the “13 scholars” group, which includes NPC deputy Priscilla Lau Pui-king, has renewed their push to convert some company ballots into individual or director votes.

Candidacy race

The NPCSC has not specified how the nominators choose prospective candidates.

The government earlier signaled that possibility of holding official polls to ascertain the popularity of the accepted contenders, although the 1,200 nominators will still retain the final say.

Popular ballot

The NPCSC’s decision also stipulates that each of the two or three candidates must secure majority support from the committee.

Both the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) suggested that each nominator can pick one to three candidates from the list in two rounds of voting. But the FTU has said that it preferred open ballots, and if a second candidate is not produced in the second polling, the entire nomination process must start all over again.

Some groups pondered ways to optimize the prospect of allowing “minority” candidates to get nominated. The “ 13 scholars” group believes if two to three contenders are bundled into one single option, nominators supporting a contender would be unable to  eliminate strong rivals.

“One person, one vote”

Pro-establishment parties are split between “first-past-the-post” and two-round voting. Business and Professional Alliance of Hong Kong holds the view that the “first-past-the-post” system is easy to understand without the hassle of a second poll. 

FTU is the only major party to push for a two-round system, which will ensure the winner achieves majority support of the electors. Supporters of this arrangement included the Federation of Hong Kong Industries and Henry Tang Yen-ying, former chief secretary for administration.

The 27 opposition lawmakers have vowed to vote down the reform package. But a number of moderates in the opposition parties have said they are ready to talk to central government officials before making their final decisions.


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