Powers of election body in dispute

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 April, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 April, 1993, 12:00am

LEGISLATORS are divided on how much flexibility the future Boundary and Election Commission should have when deciding the size of each constituency for the 1995 Legislative Council direct elections.

At a bills committee meeting yesterday, several independent members said the three-member commission should be given discretionary powers in drawing the electoral boundaries, while the United Democrats maintained that a more stringent rule should be set out in the bill.

They were responding to the Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Leung Chin-man, who had presented two illustrations on boundaries with proposed population variations of 15 and 25 per cent from the average population in a district.

Based on the Government's forecast that the territory would have a population of six million by 1995, every constituency would have about 290,000 people.

Mr Leung said a looser margin rate was more suitable to the coming elections when there was a large population in each constituency.

Referring to the official simulation, Mr Leung said the commission would have greater flexibility if it were allowed a 25 per cent deviation.

Quoting the example of Hongkong Island, where the four election districts have vastly different populations, he said the election boundary would have to be largely redefined if only a 15 per cent deviation were allowed.

By 1995, the populations of the four districts are estimated to be: Wan Chai, 189,800; Eastern, 544,700; Southern, 251,200; and Central and Western, 272,200.

This means the boundaries would have to be redrawn so as to create a similar number of people in each constituency.

The boundaries for Wan Chai, Southern, and Eastern would have to be redrawn under the 15 per cent discrepancy rate, whereas only those of Eastern and Wan Chai would have to be redrawn under a 25 per cent discrepancy rate.

Independent legislator Mr Andrew Wong Wang-fat noted that a smaller discrepancy rate would result in a more detailed restructuring of the boundary lines, which would hamper the competitiveness of small political groups in the election.

Mr Jimmy McGregor said the Boundary and Election Commission Bill should not limit the decision of the commission, which should have discretionary powers in defining new boundaries.

Mr Roger Luk Koon-ho agreed, adding that the deviation rate should not be so small as to limit the power of the commission.

''As members of the bills committee, our responsibility is not to set a limit for it [the commission]. We are only here to provide a framework,'' he said.

But United Democrats chairman Mr Martin Lee Chu-ming disagreed. He said the population of Hongkong was small compared to that of other democratic countries and the commission should be able to draw more accurate boundaries with closer reference to the population distribution.

He asked Mr Leung to produce another illustration, under a 10 per cent discrepancy, for discussion at the next meeting.