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SCMP Debate: What say will voters have in nominating 2017 chief executive candidates?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 6:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 8:40am

Every Hong Kong voter will get to cast a ballot in the 2017 chief executive election. But what say will they have in nominating candidates? For the second part of the Post's debate series on electoral reform, we asked politicians, business leaders and academics for the best way to select candidates.

 

Q1 How can the nominating committee for naming chief executive candidates become more representative of Hong Kong’s social, economic and political diversity?

Q2 How many chief executive candidates should the nominating committee nominate? What is the appropriate threshold for candidates' nomination?

Q3 Which aspects of your reform proposal (if applicable) are open to further negotiation with the Hong Kong and central governments?

 


Anson Chan Fang On-sang
Convenor of Hong Kong 2020

Hong Kong 2020's proposal:

  • create a 1,400-strong nominating committee, with 317 members directly elected by all three million voters

  • all company votes in the first three sectors of the nominating committee should be replaced by individual votes

  • the threshold for nomination should be one-tenth of the total number of nominating committee members i.e. 140

A1 It is essential that the future Nominating Committee (NC) be far more broadly representative of the Hong Kong community than the current Chief Executive (CE) Election Committee, on which it is likely to be modelled. Hong Kong 2020 would dearly have liked to reform the composition of the first three sectors, which represent respectively the industrial/commercial/financial sectors, the professions, and labour/social services/religious and other sectors. We found the current allocation of seats to the different sub-sectors so illogical, we were unable to devise a more fair and rational system.

We decided, instead, to focus on making the system more democratic in two ways. First, we propose that all company votes in the first three sectors be replaced by voting by individuals, who may cast a vote in only one sub-sector. Secondly, we propose that the fourth sector, made up of political groups, be expanded from 300 to 500 members by replacing the (currently 117) indirectly elected District Council seats with 317 members directly elected by those voters who are not entitled to vote for candidates in the other three sectors. These two measures will allow every registered voter, on equal terms, to elect members of the NC, not just the privileged elites and vested interests that make up the current Election Committee, which represents only 7 per cent of the general electorate.

A2 We are opposed to placing any arbitrary limit on the number of candidates to be nominated by the NC, which should flow naturally from the nomination process. We propose that the threshold for nomination should be one-tenth of the total number of NC members i.e. 140; that each NC member should have only one vote; and that a cap be placed on the number of votes any one candidate may receive (say 25 per cent of the total number of NC members) to ensure that potential candidates are not squeezed out of the running from the outset. We are strongly opposed to any system of organisational or block voting by NC members, as a means of screening out 'unacceptable' candidates.

We also propose that the current prohibition in local legislation on chief executive candidates having any political party affiliation be abolished.

A3 Hong Kong people must have a genuine choice of candidates and there must be no unreasonable restrictions on the ability of candidates to stand for election. We believe there is considerable room for negotiation, providing the Hong Kong and central governments are willing to engage in genuine dialogue. There must be a readiness to compromise on both sides.

From the outset our aim has been to help build consensus on the constitutional changes necessary to achieve full universal suffrage for election of the chief executive in 2017 and all members of the Legislative Council by 2020, including necessary changes to Legco in 2016. The community is deeply divided on the question of civil nomination of CE candidates. Our proposals seek to bridge this divide.

The underlying principle of one man, one vote, is to enable each voter to elect the candidate of his or her choice. There is little point in exercising this right if candidates are all Beijing nominees. It is still not too late for the government to demonstrate political courage and leadership in forging a consensus on a credible package of proposals that will secure the necessary majority in the Legislative Council.

 


Emily Lau Wai-hing
Chairwoman of the Democratic Party

The Democratic Party's proposal:

  • Replace corporate votes for the election to the nominating committee with individual votes. In the fourth sector of the nominating committee, members of the nominating committee should be returned by direct election in 18 districts

  • Anyone who succeeds in getting 10 per cent of the nominating committee members would be valid. No candidate should be allowed to get more than 12.5 per cent of the votes

A1 To make the nominating committee more representative of the social, economic and political diversity of Hong Kong, I think most, if not all, of the committee members should be elected by the Hong Kong people. This will give the committee a clear mandate .

If the way to constitute the nominating committee is based on the method for forming the 1,200-member chief executive election committee as stipulated in the December 29, 2007 decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, it would be most unfair and unacceptable. All but a handful of election committee members were chosen by a quarter of a million voters drawn mainly from the functional constituencies. However, Hong Kong has 3.5 million registered voters, and most of them would have no say.

If the formation of the nominating committee must comply with the four sectors set out in the election committee, the Democratic Party suggests that all the corporate and organisation votes must be abolished. In the political sector, we suggest dividing Hong Kong into 18 districts, and using proportional representation to elect committee members .

If the nominating committee is elected by a quarter of a million business and professional elites only, it cannot represent the wishes of the registered voters. We fear the committee would be controlled and manipulated by Beijing to exclude unacceptable candidates, people they say who do not love China and do not love Hong Kong, and who seek to confront Beijing. This is political screening and is not genuine universal suffrage. Any electoral method that screens is undemocratic and unfair and will not be supported by my party.

A2 I don't think there should be a limit on the number of nominees, as suggested by some pro-Beijing political parties. The Democratic Party suggests a threshold of 10 per cent. Anyone who succeeds in getting 10 per cent of the nominating committee's support would be validly nominated. We also propose that no candidate should be allowed to get more than 12.5 per cent of the votes to ensure several candidates can be nominated.

A3 The Democratic Party supports the three-track model advocated by the Alliance for True Democracy, which accepts that civil nomination, political party nomination and nominating committee can be used to nominate candidates . During the civil referendum in June when almost 800,000 people voted, the three-track model received the highest number of votes.

In the civil referendum, over 80 per cent expressed the clear desire that if the political reform package of the Leung Chun-ying administration does not comply with international standards, Legislative Council members should vote it down. That means the election method should not contain any unreasonable restrictions, thereby giving the voters genuine choice.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng has urged legislators and the public to accept a nominating process that may be unsatisfactory, stressing that the 2017 election model could be changed after. I accept that the election method can be improved later. However, it must not contain unreasonable restrictions, and must give voters genuine choice. It would be unacceptable to include just candidates from the pro-Beijing camp.

 


Starry Lee Wai-king
Vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong

DAB's proposal:

  • The nominating committee should comprise 1,200 to 1,600 members

  • Prospective candidates must get support from at least one-tenth of committee members in order to qualify for an internal ballot. In the internal ballot, each committee member will have up to four votes. The top two to four candidates who win support from at least half of the nominating committee members will then go forward for "one man, one vote"

A1 According to Article 45 of the Basic Law, the chief executive should be selected by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative Nominating Committee in accordance with democratic procedures, and interests of different social classes should be valued.

The composition of the Election Committee as stipulated in Annex I of the Basic Law has largely realised the balanced participation of all sectors and groups of the society and is broadly representative. According to the decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee in 2007, the method for forming the Nominating Committee may follow the method for forming the existing Election Committee. Therefore, we suggested that a broadly representative nominating committee should be formed with reference to the framework of four sectors of the Election Committee, each with an equal number of members, so as to nominate a chief executive candidate who can value the interests of different social classes.

A2 Article 45 of the Basic Law has clearly provided that the power to nominate chief executive candidates is vested in the Nominating Committee only. In view of that, we oppose any nomination methods not mentioned in the Basic Law, including civic nomination and party nomination.

The DAB considers that those who intend to run in the chief executive election must secure support from not less than one-tenth but not more than one-eighth of the Nominating Committee members in order to be recommended as "prospective candidates".

As for the "democratic procedures" in nominating candidates, the nominating committee, being an institution, should adopt a "majority support" approach to realise "the majority rule" principle and reflect the "collective will" of the Nominating Committee.

It is also suggested that each Nominating Committee member can elect up to four "prospective candidates". The top two to four "prospective candidates" who obtain more than half of the valid votes will become the candidates. If less than two contenders obtain more than half of the valid votes, another round of voting will be conducted for those "prospective candidates" who fail to secure support from over half of the Nominating Committee members until two to four candidates are returned.

A3 For the composition of the four sectors of the nominating committee, we suggest increasing the number of subsectors or adjust the subsectors, such as adding the "associate professionals", "women and youth" and "small and medium-sized enterprises" subsectors; the number of members for individual subsectors may also be appropriately increased or adjusted, e.g., increase the number of members for the District Councils subsector.

 


Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen
Chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong

The BPA's proposal:

  • The nominating committee can be expanded to 1,600 members

  • Aspirants with support from 100 or 120 nominating committee members can become contenders for nomination

  • Two to four CE candidates would be nominated for public election

A1 Any proposal for universal suffrage should be thoroughly examined within the legal framework of the Basic Law and the relevant interpretation and decisions of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

BPA considers it useful for the revamped nominating committee to be based, more or less, on the election committee, namely, that it be comprised of representatives from four sectors, which are in turn composed of a number of sub-sectors. The size of the nominating committee can be expanded to 1,600 members by adding 100 seats to each of the four sectors to realise the principle of "balanced participation".

Adjustments to the number and proportion of members from each sub-sector should be open for discussion at the next stage of public consultation.

A2 The optimal number of chief executive candidates should be between two and four. This would allow the Nominating Committee to exercise its substantive powers while offering voters reasonable choices, making the election a truly contested one. This number also has the advantage of minimising complications to the election process and in controlling costs.

BPA proposes that aspirants secure support from 100 to 120 nominating committee members (i.e. support from at least one-tenth of nominating committee members) in order to be considered as contenders for nomination.

There are views from within the community on the need for would-be contenders to win support from more than half of the nominating committee in order to be eligible to run for election as CE. On the other hand, there are those who consider such a requirement to be stringent. BPA has an open mind on the issue and looks forward to the next stage of the consultation when it hopes government will come up with specific proposals for the community's consideration.

A3 BPA believes that achieving universal suffrage for the chief executive election through "one person, one vote" in 2017 is the solemn wish of Hong Kong people and that consensus on such reforms is only possible through an accommodating and conciliatory mindset.

Participation from different strata of the Hong Kong economy should be allowed to ensure that a popularly elected chief executive takes into account all cross-section interests in the promotion of sustainable economic development.

The election framework should ensure that the incoming chief executive maintains a good relationship with the central government while enjoying broad support from within the community. Such rapport is important in underpinning the chief executive's ability to recruit talent, which is necessary for fulfilling the mandate he or she has been charged with in an effective manner.

Regardless of the choice of electoral formula, it is imperative that the election process be transparent to confer legitimacy on and credibility to the chief executive-elect. BPA hopes that the government will put forward more concrete proposals at the next stage of consultation to allow the community to conduct in-depth discussions.

 


Adeline Wong Ching-man
CEO of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong

CMA's proposal:

  • The size of the nominating committee can be increased from the election committee's current 1,200 to 1,600, with the four major sectors expanded in equal proportions.

  • Two to four candidates would be nominated

A1 As one of the major trade and industrial organisations in Hong Kong representing more than 3,000 member companies, the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong (CMA) looks forward to the implementation of universal suffrage for the chief executive in 2017 through "one person, one vote". The fundamental principle is that the electoral reform has to be pursued in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant Interpretation and Decisions of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Article 45 of the Basic Law has already made clear that the power to nominate chief executive candidates is vested in the nominating committee only, and that the nominating committee has a substantive power to nominate. Such power must not be undermined or bypassed directly or indirectly. The nominating committee should be constituted with reference to the existing "four major sectors" of the election committee in equal proportions.

There is still room for the nominating committee to be made more representative of Hong Kong's social, economic and political diversity. The size of the nominating committee can be increased from the election committee's current 1,200 to 1,600, with the four major sectors expanded in equal proportions. This will help ensure balanced participation so that the interests of different sectors of the community can be reflected. Another way to make the nominating committee more representative is to broaden the electorate base of the smaller sub-sectors, especially those with fewer than 200 registered voters. There has been a proposal to allocate the additional 100 seats in the fourth sector (i.e. the political sector) to elected district council members, as they are elected directly by more than three million registered voters and can help enhance representation of the nominating committee. CMA is open-minded on this proposal.

A2 Chief executive candidates must have a good reputation and credibility to uphold the solemnity of the chief executive election. Another consideration is the social and economic costs of the election. CMA sees a need to fix the number of chief executive candidates. CMA suggests setting the number at two to four. Setting it at two to three, which meets the above considerations, is also acceptable to CMA.

Concerning the threshold for candidates' nominations, CMA has discussed this internally but has yet to come to a decision.

A3 Implementing universal suffrage for the chief executive election will be an important milestone in Hong Kong's democratic development. We look forward to its fruition as scheduled, in accordance with the Basic Law and relevant Interpretation and decisions of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. We believe there is room for further discussions among the stakeholders to bridge their differences. A consensus can be forged, if there is a will and if regard is given to the aspirations of our five million plus eligible voters and the long-term interests of Hong Kong.

 


Simon Young Ngai-man
Associate Dean in the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong

Simon Young's proposal:

  • Include a greater proportion of elected district council members in the nominating committee

  • Create a two-track system that comes up with candidates who have either strong support from the committee or a degree of popular support (5,000 electors) and endorsement from the committee based on the existing 12.5 per cent nomination threshold.

A1 In designing a broadly representative nominating committee, the first issue is the membership split between those who represent special interests and those who represent 'the people'. With the Election Committee, the split has always been 75:25, corresponding to the first three sectors (based on functional interest representation) and the fourth sector (based on political representation). To achieve a more even split, there is value in including a greater proportion of elected district council members or, even better, directly elected members.

The second issue is reforming the existing functional-based subsectors and whether new subsectors should be added. Related is the important issue of the weighting of individual functional interests.

A systematic consideration of the issue could yield reasonable arguments in support of allocating more members to some subsectors than others. For example, the labour subsector could justifiably be allocated more than the 5 per cent of seats it currently has (which inexplicably is the same proportion allocated to the agriculture and fisheries subsector). Next there is the issue of the constituency base of the functional subsectors, and clearly here, where possible, there is room for expansion. I have argued for an organic growth approach, based on objective descriptions rather than membership in organisations. Abolishing corporate voting is relevant, but not as crucial an issue as it is with the legislature. This is because the profit-oriented corporate voters are confined mostly to the first sector. Finally there is no magic in the total number of nominating committee members because it is the proportion of members allocated to sectors and subsectors that is of greater importance.

A2 The number of candidates cannot be considered in isolation from the issues of nomination method and nominating committee make-up. Limits on the number of candidates can be imposed either directly or indirectly. With the Election Committee, the limit was always indirect because of the nomination method - there could be no more than eight candidates and in practice no more than three. By imposing a direct limit (e.g. cap of no more than three) along with a nomination method, successful candidates would likely reflect the balance of interests . With a direct limit, the committee make-up becomes crucial and unless there is a significant shift in the existing balance of interests, there is a real risk that popular candidates will be screened out. Maintaining an indirect limit based on low threshold nomination will leave greater flexibility in negotiations over the make-up of the committee and weaken calls for civil nominations. To enhance participation, I advocate a system that yields candidates who have either strong support from the committee or a degree of popular support (5,000 electors) and endorsement from the committee based on the existing 12.5 per cent nomination threshold.

A3 Compromise on the make-up of the committee is possible if the nomination threshold is low and does not unreasonably restrict participation. If persons must obtain significant nominating committee support before they can become candidates, then close attention must be paid to the precise design of the committee's make-up.

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