Vote-rigging forgotten in clash of titular titans

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 September, 1997, 12:00am

It was a battle between two presidents. Independent Andrew Wong, who presided over the pre-handover Legislative Council still seems to think he should have got the same job on the provisional legislature.

At yesterday's sitting, he sought to prove as much, during repeated skirmishes with Rita Fan, who defeated him for the post of president of the interim body more than eight months ago. At times, the cause of their clashes seemed almost incomprehensible to others in the council chamber - a series of procedural disputes over what supplementary questions legislators could ask of government officials.

But the subject matter scarcely mattered. Mrs Fan set out to show Mr Wong who was in charge. 'Please wait until I've finished speaking before you stand up,' she admonished in schoolmistress fashion. Later, she suggested that an ex-president really shouldn't need reminding of the rules governing such questions.

Mr Wong smiled and purported to take his ticking-off with good grace. But that didn't stop him from returning to the fray during subsequent questions. 'I still think she's wrong,' he complained, during a brief break from the meeting.

The battle between the two presidents took place as several provisional legislators fretted over the Government's plans to mask the massive reduction in the functional constituency electorate for next May's polls by boosting voter turnout in the geographical constituencies.

No one expressed any unhappiness with such gerrymandering. Instead, their concern was that it would be difficult to persuade enough electors to register.

Liberal Party member Howard Young even suggested the only way to lure so many voters into the polling station would be to offer souvenir ballot papers, similar to the first day covers that are sold for such exorbitant prices by the post office.

Given the huge collectors' market this would inevitably create, that would bring a whole new meaning to the concept of vote-buying.