Macau set to scrap voter registration cards in bid to foil cheats

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2005, 12:00am

Macau's voter registration card is likely to be abolished by the 2009 legislative assembly election to reduce the chance of vote-buying, an electoral commission official says.

'We learned lessons from the elections in 2001 and this year. It is time to amend the election laws according to our present needs,' said Fong Man-chong, president of the Macau Electoral Commission.

In 2009, Mr Fong said electors might be able to cast their ballots using their identification cards instead of a voter registration card, which states the voting district that citizens should go to.

Under the Basic Law, the composition of the Macau legislature is up for revision in 2009. 'It is in the spirit of the Basic Law that we look at amending the electoral laws as well,' Mr Fong said.

With one week left before the September 25 election, three incidents of vote-buying have been disclosed by the anti-corruption authorities in the past two weeks. A total of 485 people were arrested in one of the incidents.

Mr Fong has repeatedly warned the public against selling their voter registration cards. 'If anyone tells you he can check who you voted for, he's wrong,' he said. 'No one knows except yourself.'

Afonso Chan Seak-hou, deputy commissioner at the Macau Commission Against Corruption, said public education was the true solution to Macau's pervasive vote-buying culture. The commission is spending $2.5 million this year on a civic education campaign, a big rise compared to $1.5 million spent for the 2001 Legco election.

'Even if we abolish the voter registration card, someone will always come up with ways to circumvent the law,' Mr Chan said. 'Let's say people start buying votes by retaining ID cards, then are we going to abolish them too?'

Meanwhile, questions have been raised as to why candidates on the tainted lists were not immediately disqualified. At least one of the unnamed candidates has been arrested.

By law, even if a candidate was eventually convicted of vote-buying, his crimes would not affect other candidates on his list, Mr Fong said.

'Unless there is proof that other candidates had instructed or had knowingly allowed the convicted candidate to buy votes, the vote-buying would only bring down the one candidate involved, not the entire list,' he said.

Macau's legislature is elected by a system similar to the proportional representation system adopted for the Legco elections in Hong Kong.

Voters cast their ballots for a list of candidates, who run in a particular order. No list has ever gained more than two Legco seats. Yet each list is required by law to be formed by at least four candidates.