Universal suffrage

Universal suffrage means voting rights for people, not 'functions'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 January, 2008, 12:00am

Tsang Yok-sing ('Equality test', January 15) and Peter Lok ('Direct elections not the only way to achieve universal suffrage', January 16), are wrong to assert that functional constituencies should have a role in our legislature and that they fit with universal suffrage.

The human principle underlying universal suffrage cannot allow companies to elect legislators.

Even if the reforms of former governor Chris Patten were reintroduced to let only people vote, not companies, fair allocation of voting power is problematic.

The oddity of making a social services vote worth 60 per cent of a hotel employee's vote or six times a fisherman's is obvious.

If you grant votes in the legislature to economic groupings, you multiply the power of economic factors in society.

When we vote individually, we each balance the weight we give to economics, to culture, to education or aesthetics.

'Functions' do not deserve a voting privilege that we refuse to grant other social characteristics (parenthood?). For society, business is not a means unto itself, but should help generate a happier and more prosperous society.

Keeping special interests away from directly electing lawmakers is a sound principle.

Nobel prizewinner Amartya Sen, in Identity and Violence, says when we foster identity with a single group, we encourage division based on that group. The point of 'universal' suffrage is that there is no distinction drawn between citizens, and thus no implicit division between us is built into the system.

For the good of a harmonious society, we should not allow our electoral system to be built on difference.

We should respect the fact that each of us has equal rights in society, regardless of our wealth, intelligence, colour and other characteristics.

We may vote for different policies, and achieve different things in life but in our ability to choose our lawmakers, we are all equal.

Dissidents in this debate, such as Tsang Yok-sing, should think again.

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels