Proposal to dispense with by-election negates the choice the people made

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 May, 2011, 12:00am


According to a Portuguese proverb, 'God writes straight things with crooked lines'. That's as may be, but unfortunately the Hong Kong government is not God, and the proposal announced on May 17 that a vacant seat in the Legislative Council arising from the death or resignation of a legislator be filled by the next-best placed candidate at the previous election, rather than by the holding of a by-election, is not straightforward.

The entire meaning of the word 'election' is to do with choice and choosing, yet what this new proposal would do is to negate people's choice by foisting onto them a candidate whom they had clearly not chosen and had in fact rejected.

It may be argued that the decision last year by five lawmakers to step down and trigger by-elections as a de facto referendum on political reform was a foolish one, which generally reduced public goodwill towards them and detracted from the breakthrough of some political concessions being offered by the central government.

However, it may equally be argued that this new proposal is an egregious overreaction that will do far more harm than good.

Over the last couple of years, the annual July 1 march and protests have become a little lame, with the causes espoused becoming more and more fragmented. There have been suggestions that this year's march will take as its main theme a call for a universal old age pension, a suggestion that seems quite irrational since a major social change like this requires nuanced discussion covering detail and affordability rather than a slogan on a placard. On the other hand, a call not to destroy the by-election system is one that should focus public support and would be in keeping with the political and constitutional subjects proper to the Establishment Day holiday.

Rachel Cartland, Mid-Levels