My Take

47: the magic number of yes votes to pass constitutional reform

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 4:15am

Forty seven. Let me repeat this number again: 47. That is the minimum number of yes votes required in the Legislative Council to pass any constitutional reform plan that will give Hong Kong universal suffrage.

Many Hong Kong people, especially among our young activists whose souls burn with fire for true democratic freedom, don't know this number. They should and they must. The mere knowledge of this number, I believe, will instil a sense of much-needed realism in their struggle for democracy. Shouting slogans, skirmishing with police and throwing objects at the chief executive may appeal to the senses, but in the end, you have to bargain and negotiate, and that takes brain work.

I know many of us don't know, care or take the Basic Law seriously. But know this. Our mini-constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the legislature for any full democratic transition. Given the council's current 70 seats, this means at least 47 votes.

It's assumed any government blueprint will have the support of a majority of the 43 lawmakers outside the pan-democratic camp. But no pan-dems would dare cross over, as the Democratic Party did in 2010, and risk being accused of being traitors to Hong Kong. So any government plan that cannot assure majority backing from the pan-dems would most likely fail.

To drive a hard bargain, young activists should determine what their democratic elders are prepared to give, and what their baseline is. It will, therefore, help if the public have some blueprints for the 2017 chief executive election and the 2016 Legco election, with indications on how to achieve a fully elected Legco in 2020 or thereafter. They will help us determine how realistic the prospect is of passage in Legco.

I would dearly love to see some blueprints from the government and the pan-dems, maybe even the pro-Beijing parties - just something from somebody! How will candidates for the chief executive post be chosen? Is Legco to remain unicameral or to become bicameral, with a ceremonial or advisory upper chamber to house the rotten boroughs of functional constituencies?

These are the kind of questions young people should ask besides hitting the streets.