Scuttling the poll is not an option
To vote or not to vote, that is the vexed question for the 1,193 people tasked to pick Hong Kong's next leader on Sunday. Put off by the recent mud-slinging between front runners Henry Tang Ying-yen and Leung Chun-ying, some members on the Election Committee are contemplating casting a blank vote collectively. By so doing, neither Leung nor Tang will have a clear majority to win. If another ballot later in the day still fails to return a winner, the election will start all over again in early May, with possibly more candidates coming forward. Although some may find none of the three contestants is worthy of their support, the temptation to cast a blank vote to force a new round of campaign must be resisted.
In a hotly contested race, people should be all out voting for the one they support. And if no candidates are deemed worthy of support, they may stay away from the ballot box or cast a blank vote as a show of apathy or discontent. In any case, no one should be compelled to vote for a candidate reluctantly. This is his or her choice and should be respected. But the chief executive election is a totally different game. Unlike a democratic election, the upcoming ballot is confined to 1,193 people, who were specifically returned last year by a small electorate of just 249,000 people in 30-plus sectors. They were charged with a clear mission to choose the city's new leader. It is therefore not just a matter of their personal choice. They are expected to take into account public opinion and vote in the best interests of Hong Kong.
Regrettably, scandals have cast shadows over the integrity of Leung and Tang, with the ballot ridiculed as a mechanism to choose the lesser evil. There are doubts whether Leung and Tang could govern effectively if elected. Leung, while leading in popularity polls, is deemed unable to command the support of the rich and powerful. While Tang may seem more acceptable to that circle, he has upset the public with a series of scandals involving marital infidelity and illegal structures. There are fears of a mass protest on July 1 if he is elected. That said, these are not valid reasons to scuttle the ballot. Those in favour of casting a blank vote have argued that better candidates may come forward in the next round. But there is no guarantee that the next round will be a clean game and be able to return a better leader.
The election has been touted as the prelude to universal suffrage in 2017. It is in the interests of Beijing and Hong Kong to show that we are ready for democracy. Sadly, public confidence in the election has already been undermined by the scandals and mud-slinging. The seven million people who do not have a vote can only watch helplessly as the drama unfolds. It would be a shame if those privileged with a vote are already contemplating ways to scuttle the election even before the ballot begins. They should cast their votes responsibly.