Legco voting system needs reviewing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 1:28am


The saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" appears to be the guiding principle in our Legco elections. Since 1998, the proportional representation voting system has been hailed as a better formula to achieve fairer representation based on a party's share of votes. But the recent electoral results have once again proved this may not be the case. Despite having won more votes than four years ago, the pan-democratic camp secured fewer seats in some geographical constituencies. More winners have been returned with a low percentage of votes. The outcome has reinforced the argument for reviewing the electoral method as the city moves towards universal suffrage in 2020.

The ballot is a good example of voters' preference not being fully translated into seats. For instance, the vote shares between the pan-democrats and pro-government camp were 56.3 per cent versus 43.7 per cent. But the former only secured 18 of the 35 seats up for grabs, just one more than their rivals. The Civic Party could not win a second seat in New Territories West and Hong Kong Island, even though both tickets doubled the votes secured by the last winner in the race.

This is because other parties have worked around the system with an easier way to win. Instead of putting all candidates in a single ticket, they opt for a split strategy that guarantees a seat with a lower threshold. The additional five geographical seats attracted a record 216 hopefuls from 67 tickets across the five constituencies. As a result, eight winners clinched the final seat with less than 8 per cent of votes; in the 2008 polls, only one candidate was elected with less than 8 per cent support. A young radical democrat won with just 6.2 per cent in a 19-slate tussle in New Territories East.

Although the rules of the game have remained unchanged over the past 14 years, the parties play differently. They realise the system punishes those who form a strong ticket. Experience shows it is more difficult for lower-rank hopefuls to win than running on a separate ticket. More tickets have emerged as a result, each trying to win with the bare minimum needed. The ballot is effectively turned into a multiple seats, single vote system - a test of a party's strategy and voters' wisdom in casting the right ballot to help the party win more seats.

It remains unclear how the system will evolve into universal suffrage. But the situation is likely to worsen if the method remains unchanged. Review is the right step forward.