City to choose pan-democrat contender

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 December, 2011, 12:00am

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The pan-democrats will stage a primary election to choose a candidate from their camp to run in the chief executive race.

All permanent residents will be eligible to cast a vote for their preferred candidate via a digital ballot box. Seven pan-democratic parties and groups will set up 60 polling stations along the city's MTR lines and adults with permanent resident identity cards will be able to lodge their vote on a tablet or notebook computer at the booths.

The parties acknowledge that voters may be put off by privacy concerns. However, spokesman Joseph Cheng Yu-shek said a group of academics and IT professionals would help to maintain the fairness and accuracy of the poll, which will be held on January 8.

'A rules and procedures group, led by academics, and a logistics group, will be set up to ensure the city-wide poll is on par with a standard election,' said Cheng, a politics academic at City University and a member of the Civic Party. Voters will be able to cast their votes from 10am to 7pm on the day via a password-protected website. But they will first have to prove their permanent residency by showing their identity cards at the booths, which will be set up outside MTR station exits.

They will then be given access to a restricted website and will be able to vote for their preferred candidate on the computers provided.

So far only Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan and Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee have expressed interest in representing the pan-democratic camp in the chief executive election, which they have no chance of winning.

Former Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying and former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen have both declared their candidacies for the top job.

'Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu will be responsible for hiring and training the polling staff to ensure the professionalism and independence of the voting,' said Cheng. He said Chung, the director of the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, had agreed to assist with the poll in a personal capacity.

Charles Mok, chairman of lobby group The Professional Commons, admitted that the requirement to show identity cards may put off potential voters.

'People's voting intention may be affected by the identity checks, but it is necessary to avoid double voting,' he said. 'But residents will only have to provide their surnames and the first few digits of their identity card numbers. And the details will be destroyed immediately after the poll results are released.'

The voting, and the results of a city-wide opinion poll, will determine the candidate for the pan-democratic camp. Chung will conduct the opinion poll on January 3 after a televised election debate. A second debate will be held on January 7, a day before the primary election.

It remains unclear whether a pan-democrat candidate can secure the 150 nominations from Election Committee members needed to contest the chief executive election in March. Still, the camp says the primary election will help it prepare for 2017, when the city's leader will be chosen by universal suffrage.

'There is no way the pan-democratic candidate selected by the poll can win the coming race. But this practice can help us to formulate our real primary system for the next election - with universal suffrage and where pan-democratic candidates could really win,' said the Democratic Party's Dr Yeung Sum , who is on the committee organising the poll.