Universal suffrage

Face reality on electoral reforms, minister urges politicians

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 December, 2009, 12:00am

The city's politicians should face reality and be willing to compromise on the road to universal suffrage, a minister said yesterday.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung, speaking on a radio programme, said the government's current proposals for the election of the chief executive and the Legislative Council were the 'furthest and the widest' that could be achieved.

'We are not running politics in Utopia. There are certain restrictions in real life ... politics is an art of possibilities. We need to achieve for people the maximum degree of democracy within the bounds of reality, and must be willing to make compromises when necessary,' Lam said.

The minister was referring to a 2007 decision by the National People's Congress Standing Committee which ruled out universal suffrage in 2012. It also ruled out increasing the percentage of legislators elected in geographical constituencies - a key demand of the pan-democratic camp.

In a consultation paper released last month, the government proposed creating 10 more seats in the 2012 legislature - five of them directly elected - and expanding to 1,200 the Election Committee which would elect the chief executive that year.

Pan-democrats, however, want the legislature and chief executive elected through universal suffrage in 2012.

The Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats are planning to have five pan-democrat lawmakers - one from each geographical constituency - resign to trigger by-elections. They see this move as a de facto referendum on the camp's position.

Lam said that community consensus was not enough to achieve universal suffrage - it required the support of the legislature, the chief executive and the central government. This could only be achieved through gradual and orderly progress, he added.

League lawmaker Wong Yuk-man described the minister's remarks as 'slavish'.

The government had always done the bidding of the 'grandfather' - political slang for the central government - rather than stand for what was right, Wong said.

The political reform process was never gradual and orderly, Wong said, adding that the NPC Standing Committee had denied the city the opportunity to introduce changes to election methods.

Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing said that even if universal suffrage could not be achieved in 2012, the government should give a clear indication of how and when it could be achieved.

'Once the road map and timetable are agreed, the election method in the interim would be an easy matter to resolve,' she said.

Chinese University political science professor Ma Ngok said Lam was repeating the usual government line calling for the pan-democrats to compromise. He expected the public would find the minister's remarks unacceptable and it would spur more people to attend a mass rally on New Year's Day to air their objections.