Election body offers speedy disputes plan
A SCHEME to reduce disputes over election candidate qualifications was announced yesterday.
The Boundary and Election Commission, which oversees all elections, proposed the setting up of a nominations adviser in its report to the Governor on September's district board election.
Chairman Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing said this was in response to the considerable number of people - including dissident Lau Shan-ching - who had been disqualified.
His and four other candidates' nominations were declared invalid because they failed the 10-years residency requirement.
Mr Justice Woo said the proposal 'would be particularly useful for those hopefuls who had gone to study abroad during the 10-year period before nomination'.
He said candidates contesting the nine new Legco functional constituencies would also benefit, because they have to establish a 'substantial connection' with the constituency to be eligible.
He said the advice of the adjudicator would not be binding on the returning officer, who would still have the final say.
It would also not prejudice the right of a candidate to nominate or file an election petition with the courts.
Potential candidates could file applications to the adviser from six or seven months before the election to two weeks before the nominations opened.
The new system, planned to be set up by March 17 to help those eyeing the Legco election, would have only one member - preferably the Master of the Supreme Court.
This would require the consent of the Chief Justice otherwise the commission would have to look for legal professionals, said Justice Woo.
The commission also sought to make illegal the breaching of the equal and fair treatment principle in electioneering on private premises.
At present, the commission could only censure offending parties.
'Criminal penalty will have a much greater deterrent effect to safeguard a fair election,' he said.
The Government welcomed the adviser proposal but said some of the other recommendations needed careful consideration.
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Lee Lap-sun said the Government had reservations about imposing criminal penalties on those who breached the equal treatment principle.
'It might not necessarily be the most effective way and we have to allow more time for candidates to be familiarise with system,' he said.
He added the Government will look at the Municipal Council election in March and consult the Legislative Council, political parties and the community before making a decision.