Pan-democrats fear high poll spending

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 12:00am

A proposal to let Legislative Council candidates spend money on election campaigns has been strongly opposed by the pan-democrats, who fear it would favour their relatively better-off opponents.

Instead, the Democratic Party wants government subsidies to pay for television advertising.

At yesterday's constitutional affairs panel, lawmakers were also told the poll would be held on September 7, with a nomination period from July 19 to August 1.

Under the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau plan, expenses for the New Territories West and New Territories East constituencies would be increased by 20 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

The limits for other geographical seats and the functional electorates would remain. Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the adjustments were needed because of the population increases in the two New Territories constituencies.

But Democrat Cheung Man-kwong said: 'Increasing the limit would be unfair for some candidates who are not able to secure huge sponsorship.'

Emily Lau, of The Frontier, agreed. 'Instead, the limits should be set lower,' she said. 'Past elections seemed to suggest that many candidates spent well below the limits.'

The existing limits for geographical constituencies are between HK$1.5 million and HK$2.5 million, and for functional constituencies between HK$100,000 and HK$480,000, depending on voter numbers.

Democrat Yeung Sum added: 'The government should offer assistance to buy air time for TV commercials for election campaigning.'

He said television was an effective medium for reaching voters.

The Liberal Party's Howard Young said his party supported adjusting the limit, at least in line with the rate of inflation.

Current ceiling

The top limit of campaign funds to be spent in a geographical constituency, in HK dollars, is: $2.5m


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