Election Committee waits for orders that may never come

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am


Anyone who has spent time with small children will know that they can be unruly and downright naughty, yet they really want someone in authority to tell them what to do. In the absence of this authority, they will misbehave mercilessly.

Does this ring a bell among those of you who are following the behaviour of the Election Committee? Many of its members have indeed become unruly; some say they won't vote for the candidate they have nominated, others are being petulant and say they won't vote for anyone at all, while some are busy trying to sabotage the whole process by seeking to enlist the candidature of someone who is not even on the ballot.

Above all, the majority are yearning for the people in charge to give them orders and tell them who to vote for. This has always happened in the past, even when these orders were a little complicated in the first chief executive election, in which the game plan was to secure victory for Tung Chee-hwa while also reserving a number of votes for Ti-liang Yang.

Things were easier when those in charge simply did away with the pretence of allowing a real contest. Tung turned out to be a disaster and the post of chief executive was delivered into the supposedly safe hands of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

There is little doubt that, in the current election, Beijing had been planning to issue instructions, via the usual oblique channels, to ensure the election of Henry Tang Ying-yen. Only one person could have successfully sabotaged this neat plan, and that was the candidate himself. It was kind of assumed that he would be unimpressive on the campaign trail but this hardly mattered because the trail was there largely for show.

However, no one had factored in the sheer level of incompetence Tang was about to display amid a series of scandals.

Unfortunately, some members of this Election Committee assumed the mandate of heaven still rested on his slender shoulders even after some of the scandals had surfaced and Tang's popularity ratings had sunk even further. This explains why some members added their names to his nomination form despite the changed circumstances.

To understand how this happened requires an understanding of the committee's composition. We all know that its 1,200 members are equivalent to 0.01per cent or so of the population and that the overwhelming majority of those sitting on the committee are there by virtue of their membership of organisations; members who obtained their places by virtue of some form of contested election represent a minority.

Drilling down into the committee's membership, we discover that 60 seats are reserved for members of the near defunct agricultural and fisheries industry, none of whom are elected by individuals, another 60 go to the sports, performing arts, culture and publications sector that places Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, the Legislative Council's least active member, in the legislature. The religious sector has no individual voters but also retains 60 seats.

Meanwhile, fewer seats are reserved for Hong Kong's key industries and professions, such as the catering industry (17 seats); the tourism industry, with no individual voters (18 seats); and the very important finance and financial services industries also have no individual voters but have 18 seats each.

Really big professions, such as the education sector, are given the same number of seats (30) as those reserved for the tiny Chinese medicine sector. Little wonder, then, that this ludicrous allocation of seats is rarely publicised.

The purpose of this is to ensure an outcome desired in Beijing. However, those supposed to be delivering this outcome are rushing around like headless chickens, devoid of instructions but hoping madly that they will eventually be told what to do.

It almost goes without saying that the people who would be perfectly capable of taking part in an election without the benefits of instructions are barred from doing so.

These people are to be found among the 99.99per cent of the population who are not on the Election Committee.

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur