By-elections bill heads to next stage

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am


Pan-democratic lawmakers last night failed to halt the progress of the controversial electoral bill after a nine-hour debate.

With 29 of the 49 members present voting in favour of the second reading of the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2012, which bars lawmakers who resign from standing in a by-election for six months, it will move on to the committee stage this morning.

People Power legislators Albert Chan Wai-yip and Wong Yuk-man had tried throughout the debate to force an adjournment by using the rules on quorums to back up their filibuster of more than 1,300 amendments.

Under the rules, there must be at least 30 of the 60 Legco members present at all times and the meeting must be stopped if this is not met within 15 minutes of a summons to legislators to attend. No less than 20 summons were demanded, but the quorum was always met.

Civic Party and Labour Party lawmakers were among the 19 legislators who eventually voted against the bill.

However, the filibuster attempt will resume today with Chan and Wong moving their 1,306 amendments, while the government will move one.

The filibuster, which Chan has estimated could run for 500 hours, has already forced four committee meetings tomorrow and Saturday to be cancelled or postponed.

Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said a filibuster was a peaceful way to help bar 'evil bills' from being passed.

The electoral bill was introduced to prevent a repetition of the 'de facto referendum' on political reform - the by-election forced after five pan-democrat lawmakers resigned in 2010 and then contested their same seats.

Lawmaker Margaret Ng said the government's proposal was 'not to plug loopholes', but served as 'political censure'.