Lawmakers vote to continue debate on electoral reform bill

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2011, 12:00am

Lawmakers are set for a final showdown today on the controversial amendments to the Legislative Council electoral reform bill.

After six hours of debate last night, legislators voted 36 to 10 in favour of the second reading of the bill.

The next stage will be to tackle the 10 amendments tabled by four lawmakers that include proposals to abolish corporate votes in functional constituencies, lower the nomination threshold for five 'super lawmaker' seats and allow former district councillors to contest those seats.

Civic Party legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said the corporate votes allowed enterprises and business owners to manipulate the elections and there was lack of transparency over how they decided their voting preferences.

But many business-sector lawmakers raised concerns that the voice of professionals and business would be diminished if the voter base was widened to all practitioners in the respective sectors.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the government's proposal enhanced the democratic elements in the forthcoming election and will be conducive to the city's steady transition to universal suffrage.

In June, Legco passed the electoral reform plan to increase the number of Legco seats to 70 from 60. Five of the new seats, known as 'super lawmakers', will be in a district councils functional constituency, where 3.2 million people will be eligible to vote.

Earlier yesterday, lawmakers decided on arrangements for next year's chief executive election. After 11 hours of debate they voted 42-11 in favour of the bill to expand the election committee from 800 to 1,200 members, with a candidate needing at least 150 nominations to stand for the city's top job.

All the amendments put forward by Civic Party's Ng - the only lawmaker to propose any changes - were voted down.

Ng proposed 40 changes to the Chief Executive Election (Amendment) Bill.

Among them were a cap on the number of nominations a chief-executive candidate can receive, adjusting the number of seats allocated to each sector in the election committee and allowing the chief executive to have political affiliation.

'If the chief executive has party allies, he can also show consistency in policies, instead of only focusing on public opinion,' Ng said.

She said senior officials had shown little team spirit since the ministerial system was introduced in 2002 and that had hindered their ability to govern.

Her proposal received the unexpected support from the pro-government Liberal Party, whose chairwoman, Miriam Lau Kin-yee, said the lack of party affiliation put the administration and Legco in a difficult position.