Starry Lee’s Exco resignation allows her to focus on Legco poll

With Leung Chun-ying’s popularity in the doldrums, it is only natural for political parties and lawmakers to distance themselves ahead of the vote

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 March, 2016, 12:58am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2016, 12:58am

The resignation by DAB chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king from the chief executive’s cabinet has become a hot topic in the corridors of power. Although the idea was floated nearly a year ago when she took over the party’s helm, the timing has understandably fuelled much speculation, ranging from the party turning its back on Leung Chun-ying to Lee eyeing the top leader’s job.

The latter suggestion appears to be remote, as the 42-year-old made clear that her party is not ready for the challenge yet. The former idea was also quashed after Leung swiftly replaced Lee with veteran party lawmaker Ip Kwok-him.

Being the first female leader of the city’s largest pro-Beijing party and a “super seat” lawmaker elected with a city-wide mandate, Lee carries a lot on her shoulder. She is also one of the few that has served three tiers of political office – the District Council, the Legislative Council and the Executive Council.

Starry Lee looks to put DAB in poll position with Executive Council resignation

Lee said she wanted to focus on her work in the legislature and the party. But the decision must also have taken into account the growing pressure in the run-up to the September’s Legco elections. Currently, cabinet members are required to support and defend government policies and decisions, even if they are also lawmakers. But constitutionally, the legislature is expected to provide checks and balances to the executive arm.

The tension is probably not much of a problem during non-election years. But with the ballot drawing near and the government’s popularity in the doldrums, it is only natural for political parties and lawmakers to distance themselves.

The city’s unique governance structure makes the chief executive and his Legco allies uncomfortable bedfellows at times. Pro-government parties are expected to keep an arm’s length with officials in times of elections. This is a political reality to be lived with. But for smooth and effective governance to prevail, solid support from a wide base in Legco is essential. The chief executive and Beijing are no doubt watching closely whether this will be the case after September.