Battle lines drawn for Legco ballot

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 April, 1998, 12:00am

Nominations for the first Legislative Council elections closed yesterday with fierce competition for the geographical constituency seats but a lukewarm response to the functional sector.

Late last night, one more candidate was disqualified in the disarray over nationality requirements, putting to eight the number of hopefuls who were not eligible in the constituencies denied to foreign nationality holders.

When the fortnight-long nominations ended at 5 pm, 166 candidates had joined the race for the 60 seats in 119 nominations. There were 34 nominations for 81 candidates submitted for the 20 seats in the five geographical constituencies.

Two Democratic Party candidates officially withdrew their nominations after they failed to relinquish their foreign right of abode to become eligible for the geographical polls.

Another three candidates pulled out yesterday after they found their foreign nationality was still valid.

The nominations of John Tse Si-yin and Ricky Wong Wai-kay in the Information Technology constituency were declared invalid because of foreign nationality.

Of the 30 functional seats, 10 will be declared uncontested after the eligibility of the only candidate in each constituency is confirmed.

The 800-member Election Committee will select 10 out of the 25 nominees.

The Government was pleased with the record number of candidates, especially in the geographical constituencies, according to Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Robin Ip Man-fai.

The number of candidates, Mr Ip said, showed widespread support for the poll. 'We are confident that the election will be conducted in an open and fair manner, and the legislature so returned will be credible and representative,' he said.

Mr Ip dismissed suggestions the polls' credibility had been undermined by the high number of uncontested seats.

'It's wrong to judge the election simply by the number of uncontested seats, which is something that also happened in the past,' he said. 'The important thing is that the process of nominations and the law governing the candidature are open and fair.' According to a new poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong's Social Sciences Research Centre, more than 90 per cent of respondents were not aware that proportional representation would be used.

Most respondents would prefer to vote for a candidate rather than a party.

Chinese University academic Professor Lau Siu-kai said competition for the geographical seats was so fierce that it would not be possible for a single party to win a large majority.

The fiercest battle is in New Territories West, where 11 lists of candidates are competing for five seats.

Others are Hong Kong Island (eight lists); Kowloon West (five); Kowloon East (three); New Territories East (seven). Only the Democratic Party and the DAB fielded candidates in all five constituencies.