Lawmakers in last-ditch bid to alter election reform bill

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 February, 2011, 12:00am

Lawmakers are making last-ditch efforts to amend the 2012 election plan ahead of Wednesday's Legislative Council meeting, where a marathon debate is expected in the finale of Hong Kong's constitutional reform.

The city's long march to democracy will take another step after the vote, which spells out detailed arrangements following the passage of the reform proposal in June last year. But the pan-democrats fighting for 16 amendments are unlikely to succeed.

Legco president Tsang Yok-sing has yet to approve the introduction of any of the 16 amendments raised on the Chief Executive election (amendment) and Legislative Council (amendment) bill.

But, even if they are allowed to proceed, a vote count by the South China Morning Post finds none of the amendments is expected to secure enough votes to pass.

A solid opposition in Legco stands in the way of 11 proposed amendments to fine-tune the methods for the Legco election, and five others on the chief executive poll. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong confirmed their nine votes against all amendments, as do the four from the pro-business Economic Synergy.

Under the Legco's split voting system, the passage of amendments requires a simple majority of members present during the vote in both the functional and geographical constituencies. At least seven lawmakers in functional seats and six directly elected will oppose the amendments.

'Our views are final and will not change even upon other lawmakers' lobbying,' DAB lawmaker Ip Kwok-him said.

But some pro-establishment lawmakers support the pan-democrats' amendments.

In the package, Legco in 2012 will have 10 more seats. Of these, five district council functional constituency seats will be elected by 3.2 million voters. Elected district councilors with 15 nominations from their peers can run for the seats, dubbed 'super lawmakers' because of an expected 300,000-plus mandate.

In the chief executive election in March 2012, the Election Committee will be expanded from 800 to 1,200. The most controversial feature of the proposal has been the nomination threshold for the five super-lawmaker seats, criticised as too high, and favouring large parties.

But while the Democratic Party's Emily Lau Wai-hing proposed lowering it to 10, four pan-democrats - including Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats and independent Leung Yiu-chung - said they would oppose the amendment. The pro-business Liberal Party confirmed three votes in support.

The Civic Party's Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee has 60-plus fine-tunes in the bills to alter four items to roll back the poll plans for Legco, and five for the chief executive election respectively.

The list includes abolition of corporate votes for the 28 existing functional constituencies and removal of a rule barring the chief executive from having political affiliations. She acknowledged there was zero chance of these being passed but said the gesture was important.

A proposal by unionist Wong Kwok-kin, a government ally, to relax the eligibility of the super-lawmakers to allow former district councillors to be candidates has gained support from Democrats and the Liberals.

Key proposed amendments

Emily Lau Wai-hing (Democratic Party):

Lower the nomination threshold for the five new district council functional constituency lawmakers from 15 to 10

Andrew Cheng Kar-foo (Independent):

Expand geographical constituencies from five to six

Wong Kwok-hing (Federation of Trade Unions):

Allow former district councillors to contest five new district council functional constituency seats

Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee (Civic Party):

Abolish corporate votes in functional constituencies

Allow chief executive to have political affiliation