Pro-establishment forces set to win Macau's legislative election

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 10:15am

Pro-establishment groups are likely to maintain their grip on Macau's rubber-stamp legislature in the election next week.

The fourth legislative assembly poll since the 1999 handover features the most candidate lists and seats up for grabs after two directly elected seats and two functional constituencies were added last year to the existing 29 seats.

A record number of nearly 280,000 voters have registered, compared with about 250,000 in the 2009 election.

But it is widely believed that there will not be much change in the political landscape in the former Portuguese enclave after the election on September 15. More than half the seats are already in the hands of pro-government politicians even before a vote is cast, as 12 candidates running for 12 indirect seats will be elected uncontested, and seven legislators will be appointed by Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on.

Bill Chou Kwok-ping, associate professor in government and public administration at the University of Macau, said the majority of the 14 directly elected seats would be won by pro-government candidates, who were mostly wealthy and influential.

"The election system itself is not fair as the cap for election spending is very high and is over 5 million patacas. It is unfair to candidates that are financially disadvantaged," he said, adding that the limit for the biggest geographical constituencies in Hong Kong was over HK$2 million last year.

He said pork-barrelling was frequent at election time, and pro-establishment groups could afford to provide lavish banquets to garner voters' support.

Voters would not make an informed choice as Macau had weak civil society and there were varying degrees of media censorship, he added.

For the 14 directly elected seats sought by 20 candidate lists, it is believed that the pandemocratic camp can win only five seats - one more than now.

The four lawmakers are Au Kam-san, Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong and Paul Chan Wai-chi from the New Macau Association, and Jose Pereira Coutinho, who is Macanese.

Pan-democrat Jason Chao Teng-hei, who formerly competed with the New Macau Association, has decided to go it alone this time.

Au believed Teng's move might make the election a bit harder for them. "It's always easier to concentrate pan-democratic votes when there are only two lists. Things get tougher when there's an additional one."

Larry So Man-yum, a political commentator, said the 10 incumbent lawmakers who were running had a very good chance of being re-elected in Sunday's poll.

"Incumbent legislators will have some basic votes. They can have more exposure before the election. As the political platforms are released at a very late stage, existing lawmakers are more persuasive to the public," he said.

Under Macau's legislative election law, campaigning is allowed only two weeks before the poll.

So is a professor in social work at the Polytechnic Institute in Macau. He said the new indirect seat of social service and education, that was split from the social services, cultural, educational and sport sector, would not help the sector much.

"We all understand that the indirectly elected seats are portioned out after their calculation … what they have done is very little," he said.

The 12 lawmakers-to-be in the functional constituencies include the brother and cousin of the chief executive - Chui Sai-cheong and Jose Chui Sai-ping - respectively.

Macau's Basic Law does not state that universal suffrage is the ultimate goal.


Poll Facts

Number of directly elected seats: 14

Number of candidate lists for direct seats: 20

Voting method: modified d'Hondt method of proportional representation; the number of votes taken by each candidate list will be divided by 1, 2, 4 and 8, which makes it almost impossible for any group to win more than two seats in each list

Number of indirect seats: 12

1 seat for social services and educational sector (split from social services, cultural, educational and sport sector)

2 seats for cultural and sport sector

2 seats for labour sector

4 seats for industrial, commercial and financial sector

3 seats for professional sector (one more seat added to this category)

Appointed seats: 7

Election date: September 15