Democrat proposal smacks of self-interest

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 July, 2010, 12:00am

The passing of the revised political reform proposal seems to have put a temporary stop to our long-running debate over constitutional reform. Now the fine tuning has begun.

The Democrats have proposed a relaxation of the rules for the five new functional seats in the legislature: they want to allow candidates who are not district councillors to stand for the seats - as long as they have 'substantial connections' to district affairs.

In principle, the revised electoral package is supposed to increase the democratic element of the functional constituency system - opening the voting to some 3.2 million voters.

But what the Democrats are proposing has nothing to do with boosting democracy. It's obvious they want to change the game plan to accommodate former district councillors, including some of their party members.

Many suspect that the Democrats' support for the electoral package had more to do with creating political opportunities for themselves than advancing democratic development.

If they are really trying to create a more favourable condition for the political comebacks of party colleagues such as Sin Chung-kai and Tik Chi-yuen, they will have to be prepared for political repercussions, such as a loss of credibility and tarnished reputation.

Their proposal goes against the principle of fairness. Under the new rules, only elected district councillors can be nominated to run for the new Legco seats. If the rules are relaxed - letting former councillors or those with connections with the district councils or district affairs run - then it would no doubt give appointed district councillors the excuse to be included, as well.

Nobody can deny that they, too, have strong district connections.

The term 'substantial connections with district affairs' is too vague, and will only stir debate and cause undue confusion.

Many prominent political figures are considering running for the new seats. They reportedly include lawmaker and Savantas Policy Institute chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Civic Party chief Audrey Eu Yuet-mee.

The new positions are being called 'super legislators', since their mandates are so broad. But I think this title is all glamour and no substance.

But there is nothing 'super' about them: they will never measure up, in terms of representation, to those elected in direct elections through geographical constituencies. The new seats will still be chosen in a small-circle election since the selection pool is highly restricted - only elected district councillors are qualified to nominate or to run.

So, even if a candidate gets elected through this channel, with hundreds of thousands of votes, it still doesn't make him or her a 'super legislator'.

Ultimately, it is the quality of the votes that counts and not the quantity.

The term 'super legislator' is nothing more than a novelty that gives undue recognition to these new legislators.

Good politicians should do more and talk less.

The Democrats have chosen their path; they want to hold dialogues with Beijing and the Hong Kong government instead of opting for a more radical approach.

If that's what they want, they must believe it is the right way forward, and they don't need to keep explaining their actions.

By talking about their future plans - such as their decision not to be part of the Executive Council or any ruling coalition - they will only dig themselves further into a hole. They would do well to remember actions always speak louder than words.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.