• Fri
  • Aug 22, 2014
  • Updated: 2:20pm

Fake democracy will be bad for Hong Kong and chief executive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 5:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 5:11am

In the long and hard battle for democracy in Hong Kong, we are occasionally confronted by critics who are intelligent but unfortunately also overly sceptical or too fatalistic. One such example is the view of the respected columnist Alex Lo, expressed in his article ("It's time to set idealistic pieties aside", June 18).

Lo says: "Most of us are practical people who understand the way of the world and the difference between the realistic and achievable and idealistic pieties that will get us nowhere." He then says: "Many people want a viable election system even if it's less than perfect and doesn't meet … 'international standards' which are themselves subject to interpretation."

He has missed the most important issue in the whole debate: it is not the difference between what is probably achievable and what is not. It is the distinction between a genuine election and a fake one. The public should not and will not accept a fake election even if it is easily achievable and hence viable.

Lo says: "Good enough democracy is good enough for most people in Hong Kong … The key is that we will have a nomination committee - which selects chief executive candidates - that can evolve over time to improve the system." There are two issues arising here. First, a fake democracy is not and can never evolve into a good or good enough democracy.

Second, a fake democracy will cause more damage and harm to Hong Kong, as it will clothe the chief executive with a fake legitimacy.

Therefore, the key question is whether the nomination committee can provide a genuine nomination process for a real democratic election.

I entirely agree with Lo when he says that "public nomination does not equate to real democracy, but only one of its forms".

On this point, a panel of legal and constitutional experts of international standing recently met in Hong Kong and set out the criteria to assess what forms of electoral systems could comply with the minimal international standard, as prescribed under Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In essence, the nomination process for the 2017 election must not create any unreasonable restriction on candidacy, before it could be called real democracy and hence be acceptable to Hong Kong people.

Albert Ho, legislative councillor, Democratic Party


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Based on this article, I guess Parliamentary elections as currently practiced in Canada, the UK, and Australia are not considered real democracy then since they don't actually vote for the leader but for an MP whom then choose their leader behind closed doors.
I don't think you actually understand parliamentary elections in Canada, the UK and Australia. If you did, you would know that in those multiparty systems, it is made crystal clear to voters who will head the executive branch if the party they vote for wins the election and becomes the largest in parliament.

And that aside, the alignment of the executive branch with the outcome of the legislative elections is a feature, not a bug. As we can observe very well in for example the US in the past 6 years, and currently to some extent even in Hong Kong, the separation of the (s)election method of the legislative and the executive branch entails the risk of government deadlock.
I know it's a wiki page, but it does discuss much of how a Parliamentary system works, it's pros and cons, and interestingly enough how it is less prone to corruption then presidential systems.
It's unfortunate that our party system in HK is no where near mature enough to pull this off with intelligence.
Explain how Margaret Thatcher was taken out of office then.
I agree that in general most of these parties have a defacto leader, but voters have generally no say in selecting that leader. Internal party (as well as coalition party) politics is not something the general population have a say in.
If you want a say in selecting a party leader, you should simply become a member of that party and vote for its leader.

Either way, I think the deeper problem here is your excessive focus on the leader. It is only in HK that we have a executive-led system with a very weak legislature.

In the parliamentary democracies we are talking about here, the legislature holds the primary power over policy direction. The majority party (or parties in a coalition) put a government in place that will execute their election programme (or a coalition compromise thereof). This government is nearly always led by the leader who headed the party during the elections, which is how the voting public de facto gets to vote for the leader of government.

And while I wouldn't argue that who is at the head doesn't matter at all, it is secondary to the party's policy programme, and the leader (and the rest of the government) only sits there by the grace of the support (of their party) they enjoy in the legislature.

Which brings us to what happens when they loose that support, which is basically what happened to Thatcher. In the UK, then a new party leader steps up, but it remains the same party with the same policy programme.

By the way, the UK is a bit quirky in that. In many other parliamentary democracies, the fall of a government (ie, when it looses legislative support) will lead to new elections, precisely indeed to prevent an unelected leader from getting the top job.
Well, within the context of the original article, Albert Ho would consider a parliamentary system to be undemocratic because of his focus on the leader not being elected by the people (which was my point in bring up this type of system).
Personally I would have thought a system like this would have made more sense in HK, but it would have required more mature political parties. At the very least, we wouldn't have a bunch of whiny legislators and our government departments wouldn't be as stuck in the past as they are.


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