Elections chief predicts higher turnout

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 December, 2006, 12:00am

More candidates standing for Election Committee than in 2000 - though more will win seats without a fight this time

With a record 1,101 candidates running, the elections chief expects voter turnout for this year's Election Committee poll to be higher than six years ago.

Of the candidates, 237 will be returned uncontested, up from the 182 who won without a fight in 2000.

Still, Pang Kin-kee said he expected more competition for seats this year as the number of candidates exceeded the 905 in 2000.

'In the previous election, average turnout was 19 per cent.

'This year, there are so many candidates we expect competition will be more intense and the turnout is expected to rise correspondingly,' he said.

Mr Justice Pang appealed to eligible voters to cast their ballots when 110 polling stations open across the city at 7.30am tomorrow. Polling will go on until 10.30pm. The 800-strong committee will pick the next chief executive.

Mr Justice Pang dismissed a suggestion that he was under pressure from Beijing as a result of President Hu Jintao's call last month for smooth elections in Hong Kong.

'The principle of the commission is that we would try our best and carry out our elections according to the law ... all of us in the commission are united in heading towards this goal. I haven't come under any pressure,' the Electoral Affairs Commission chairman said.

More than 1,800 staff would be deployed tomorrow to ensure a smooth election, said Mr Justice Pang said, adding that HK$70 million has been spent staging the tomorrow's poll.

To avoid a repeat of blunders that plagued the 2004 Legislative Council election - which included a shortage of ballot boxes because of flaws in the design of the boxes and ballot papers - Mr Justice Pang said bigger boxes were being used.

As well as the 1,200 ballot boxes being put out on the day, 2,000 will be held in reserve.

Ballot papers will be transferred to a central vote-counting station in Wan Chai, where 22 optical recognition machines will be used to count them. Full results are expected by Monday afternoon.

The commission has handled 13 complaints relating to the election, involving claims of unfair and unequal treatment by the media, false statements and a breach of restrictions on using contributions to the media, including newspaper and magazine columns, to promote their candidacies.

Asked about claims the pan-democratic camp's chief executive candidate Alan Leong Kah-kit had covered up expenses from a consultancy firm, Mr Justice Pang said election expenses would be counted from the moment a candidate declared his intention to run in the chief executive poll. The Civic Party used the firm in the run-up to the launch of his bid.