'Record' turnout of voters wins the day for apathy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2006, 12:00am

The 27 per cent turnout rate for the Election Committee poll on Sunday was simply not good enough. A record or not, it was, in fact, pathetic. The award-winning US novelist James Lee Burke has written that the moral failure of Americans lies in their collective willingness to trust those whom they should not. For us Chinese, our moral failure lies in our collective willingness to forfeit our right to shape our future. It is hard to imagine that the 73 per cent of eligible voters who failed to turn up on Sunday are satisfied with our environmental policy, the quality of our air and water, and the destruction of our harbour. By not turning out to vote, even in such an election, we in effect consent to all the social injustices that we witness, including the way the rich manipulate the government and the misappropriation of natural resources.

The fall of man in China resides in his alienation from himself and his country. If the argument for not voting is that the election result is pretty much controlled by Beijing, then we have learned nothing in the past 50 years or so and we deserve all that is to come.

TIMOTHY WONG, Happy Valley

Earlier this week, local media including this newspaper hailed the mere 27 per cent voter attendance at Sunday's poll as record-breaking ('Leong's poll hopes boosted by record turnout', December 11). Late last week, news that Hong Kong is ranked No1 on Earth based on personal assets set tongues wagging across town ('Hong Kong tops survey of world's richest', December 7). By juxtaposing these two seemingly unconnected news items, it becomes clear that, while inertia rules when it comes to politics, Hongkongers are insatiable in their quest for personal wealth. In fact, public avidness for voting and democracy has never matched that of the crush of crowds at initial public offerings, property sales debuts, racecourse entrances, free rice giveaways and even PlayStation premieres. So, this is my advice to candidates who were disappointed in their quest to encourage voters to show up: get over it.

To increase voter numbers, the government could introduce compulsory voting, like in Australia, where the turnout has hovered at about 96 per cent since it was adopted nationwide in 1924.

Alternatively, electoral officers could partner with the Hong Kong stock exchange, setting election dates to coincide with major IPOs and requiring all eager investors eligible to vote to cast their ballots before they can get their hands on a listings prospectus.

To those who think my ideas sound strange, I can assure you they are far less bizarre than the prospect of, say, 56,000 out of 7 million people turning up at the polls when Hong Kong gets universal suffrage one day.

DAVID DAY, Tseung Kwan O

Your table on Monday of voter turnout rates for the Election Committee poll made for interesting analysis ('Turnout rates in full', December 11). A quick glance reveals that turnout was roughly inversely proportional to the size of the constituency - that is, the smaller the constituency, the larger the turnout rate, and vice versa. Nearly 80 per cent of the 95 voters in the hotel sub-sector cast a ballot whereas, shamefully, less than 20 per cent of the huge education sub-sector of nearly 79,000 could be bothered to get out of bed on their Sunday off.

The results clearly indicate that, to get a good turnout, constituencies should be kept small and cosy. Perhaps if everyone knows everyone else in the group, they will encourage each other to vote. Conversely, if the group is so large that nobody knows most of the others, they won't be in a position to encourage their fellows to shed their apathy. Maybe this is the secret to a successful election in Hong Kong.

D. SORTON, Happy Valley