Spoilt elections

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 September, 1998, 12:00am

Nothing better illustrates the case against ultra-small functional constituencies than the persistent problems with the Regional Council seat.

In 1993, a by-election was forced in this constituency after the winner in the 1991 polls, Gilbert Leung Kam-ho, was jailed and disqualified for bribing his way to victory. Now the same seat is going to see a by-election once again, the result of yesterday's court ruling concerning the spoilt ballot papers that gave Tang Siu-tong his single-vote majority in May.

The court's decision highlights many shortcomings in the electoral system which now need to be addressed. One of these is the bewildering array of voting arrangements. Different constituencies used different voting methods. This was a recipe for encouraging spoilt ballots. Another is the conflicting instructions on how to handle potentially invalid ballot papers.

But the core of the problem is the extremely small size of the electorate in the functional constituencies.

While single-vote majorities are possible in seats of any size, such problems are clearly far more likely to arise in a functional constituency with only 50 voters than in a directly-elected seat with hundreds of thousands of voters.

The SAR administration, which last year insisted on reducing the size of many functional constituencies, would do well to think again in the light of this judgment. Its opportunity to reverse this retrograde step will come when arrangements for the 2000 elections are shortly put before the new Legislative Council.