Politicians need the risk of losing
The National People's Congress has locked the constitutional door against a rogue chief executive, adding to the locks dealing with Legco. Can we now get down to asking why our system does not work?
High on the list must be poor checks and balances. Our political system provides very low levels of institutional and personal accountability. We are so good at dealing with international business competition, but we make life easy for our political leaders: we deny them the spur that comes from the risk of being thrown out. The spur is needed in business - and in politics.
In a small state (Singapore), a genius like Lee Kuan Yew can make things work: but even Mr Lee refused to become a formal adviser to Vietnam, because a country of 70 million is so much more complicated to manage. In a large state (China), even a one-party system can be intensely internally competitive. The quality of political and managerial skills required to get to the top are among the highest in the world. Since the reforms of the 1980s, Chinese leaders have succeeded well, as is recognised in approval levels Hong Kong gives them.
We need the equivalent level of competition here, so that only the best move up, and the others are weeded out. Traditionally, in a democracy, leaders have first to conquer a party and competing parties have then to win the people's vote. Over and again. The learning process is often haphazard. Mistakes get made. But the spur to success is the risk of losing - that is competition.
Thus we need to refresh the political parties of Hong Kong, and introduce more competition in the system. More devolution of power to lower, elected, levels of authority. A chief executive dedicated to performance, not to excusing his supporters. More independently minded, elected, commissioners to balance vested and common social interests in our health, the harbour, and the environment. Most important is a political process which - if it does not give democracy today - nonetheless subjects candidates to the discipline of losing. One in which the executive treats election results as a guide to a harmonious way forward, not a challenge to be confronted.
PAUL SERFATY, Mid-Levels