Cameras pulled to ensure voting privacy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am

Closed-circuit surveillance cameras inside the polling station at the AsiaWorld Expo have been taken down to ensure the confidentiality of tomorrow's election, the head of the electoral watchdog said.

But he denied the move was aimed at allaying concerns over the secrecy of voting that were sparked by a warning from casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun that the identities of Election Committee members casting blank votes could become public.

'This is a standard election practice because we have to enforce the principle of confidentiality,' said High Court judge Pang Kin-kee, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission. He sought to reassure the 795 men and women due to vote tomorrow that all the electoral arrangements were aimed at ensuring nobody could find out how any of them voted.

If either candidate receives more than half the valid votes cast in the first round of balloting, he will be declared the winner. Mr Justice Pang called on Election Committee members to turn out to vote between 9am to 11am - the time scheduled for the ballot - at the convention centre next to the airport.

Six commission staff will begin counting the votes immediately balloting ends, and a result is expected within two hours.

The candidates' campaign teams, media representatives and the public will be able to watch the count.

Some Beijing loyalists and dissatisfied businesspeople are thought to be considering casting blank votes.

Mr Justice Pang would not say whether the number of blank votes would be disclosed. 'There are only two types of votes: valid and invalid ones,' he said.

The election chairman noted that only 795 people were eligible to vote tomorrow since an Election Committee member had died recently.

He was referring to Cheung Shiu-kit, of the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association subsector, who nominated incumbent chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in the election.

Mr Justice Pang said that to ensure voters could cast their ballots impartially, campaign teams and protesters would not be allowed to cause any disturbances.

He said that it would be up to a court to decide if the noise created by protesters chanting slogans constituted a disturbance, even though the protesters would be restricted to an area well away from the venue.

Mr Justice Pang said the commission had received 10 complaints about the election so far, of which seven were related to unequal media time for the two candidates.