Majority oppose polls-axe bid

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 July, 2011, 12:00am


A majority of Hong Kong people - particularly the young and educated - oppose the government's plan to scrap by-elections for Legco seats and think a consultation should have been held before attempting to push the amendment through, a poll has found.

Support for by-elections in different circumstances ranged from just under 60 per cent to almost 66 per cent in the survey, in which more than 60 per cent also said there should have been a consultation.

The random telephone poll of 526 people aged 18 or over, commissioned by the South China Morning Post, and conducted by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, was carried out on Monday and Tuesday.

Legislators are due to vote on the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill on July 13.

The survey straddled this week's U-turn on the method of choosing a replacement for a departing lawmaker, with 271 being interviewed beforehand and 255 afterwards.

Last month, the administration proposed giving a vacated seat to the candidate on the next-best-placed ticket in the general ballot. Faced with mounting challenges to the legality of the bill, it announced on Tuesday that a running mate of the departing lawmaker would get the seat instead.

The concession also came after Beijing's liaison office this week suggested the administration's original plan should undergo big changes.

The survey found that more people preferred a by-election to a replacement mechanism without a by-election in all circumstances when vacancies arose.

Almost two-thirds said there should be an election when a legislator died, 62.5 per cent when a legislator was disqualified from office and 57.6 per cent when a lawmaker resigned. Support for a defeated candidate taking over was 24.9 per cent, 28.1 per cent and 33.6 per cent respectively.

The amendment is aimed at plugging what the government called a legal loophole that allowed five lawmakers from the League of Social Democrats and the Civic Party to resign and stand again last year in what they hoped would be a 'de facto referendum' on constitutional reform.

The authorities have been citing a low turnout in these polls to support their argument that by-elections could be scrapped. But in the survey, even among those who did not vote in the May 16 by-elections last year nearly half - 49.2 per cent - said there should be a by-election after a lawmaker resigned. The percentage was 71.4 per cent among those who did vote.

Opposition to the government proposal and the way it was pushed through was by far the greatest among young people.

For example, 72.7 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 29 said a by-election should be held in the case of a resignation, compared to 60.1 per cent of those aged between 30 and 49, and 47.7 per cent of those aged 50 or above.

The youngest age group also showed the strongest support for a public consultation (78.8 per cent).

Sixty-six per cent of those with a tertiary education preferred ballots for seats vacated by resigning lawmakers, while 74.1 per cent wanted a city-wide consultation.

Despite the government announced what it saw as an improved proposal on Tuesday, the survey found substantially more respondents (51.1 per cent) actually preferred the old plan, while the new one drew just 21.1 per cent support.

The survey had an overall response rate of 68.8 per cent, and a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 per cent.


The total interviewed after the U-turn who wanted by-elections following resignations, a slide of 11.9 percentage points from before