Democrats face losing battle over reform plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 November, 2010, 12:00am

Major roadblocks stand in the way of lawmakers who want to roll back the government's reform plan for the chief executive and Legislative Council elections in 2012.

So far, the most contentious features of the government proposal have been the nomination threshold for the five seats of the new district council functional constituency and the HK$6 million election expense cap, both criticised as too high and favouring established and well-funded political groups.

But at least 10 of the 30 lawmakers in the functional constituencies say they will not support the amendments sought by the democrats. Under Legco's split vote-counting system, 15 opposition votes in either of the functional or geographical constituencies are enough to veto an amendment. It is unclear whether the democrats have the support of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the political party with the most seats in the legislature.

The Democratic Party has called for cross-party support for an amendment to lower the nomination threshold from 15 to 10 elected district councillors for the five seats of the new district council functional constituency. Its stance appears to have some support from the Liberal Party, but not the DAB.

'The Democrats have clarified they did not say no to 15 during their talks with the government, but they are still discontented,' DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said. 'Why do we have to follow their line when it's changed? We think the government's proposal is totally acceptable.'

Economic Synergy, the Federation of Trade Unions and independent financial services lawmaker Chim Pui-chung said they would not support the amendment. Some pan-democrats said the HK$6 million cap on election expenses for the five new district council functional constituency seats would deter less well-funded candidates from contesting.

They have suggested lowering the limit or raising the cap on the government subsidy for election expenses from 50 to 75 per cent. But the Civic Party said such suggestions amounted to advocating preferential treatment for the new seats. Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said all election rules should be applied across the board, not to particular seats.

As 3.2 million people will be eligible to vote, a candidate will probably need about 300,000 votes to secure a seat. Lawmakers in geographical constituencies will be able to win with fewer than 20,000 votes. The government is expected to table the bills to change electoral methods in 2012 in the next few weeks.