It's official: Macau chief executive Fernando Chui will seek re-election

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 2:59am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 7:30am

Macau's chief executive, Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on, will formally launch his re-election bid today amid escalating social tensions in the former Portuguese enclave.

Whether Chui will face any challenger matters little, experts say, as he is widely regarded as Beijing's pick in the race. And even if it is a one-man election, the 400 members of the election committee will still need to cast their votes on August 31.

Chui's election office said last night that he would elaborate on his re-election platform when he formally announced his candidacy today.

Chui's first five-year term saw Macau's economy surpass Switzerland's and claim the world's fourth-highest per capita GDP thanks to soaring revenues from taxes on casinos.

But discontent among the population of some 560,000 has also surged, culminating in May when thousands rallied in a public demonstration unprecedented since the city's return to Chinese rule. The protest was prompted by legislation Chui proposed that would make him immune to criminal prosecution during his tenure. He later scrapped the proposal.

Chui, 57, also angered democracy supporters by dismissing a non-binding referendum on electoral reform organised by the city's democrats.

This week, in a move apparently aimed at youngsters who complained about a lack of affordable housing, Chui unexpectedly announced that 28,000 public housing flats would be built in an undeveloped area - almost double the number planned.

Macau watcher Larry So Man-yum said the decision - which Chui said was unrelated to his re-election campaign - might not lessen the challenges he faces in a second term. "It will take a decade for the housing units to be available," So said. "It'll definitely be a harder term for Chui."

So said the chief executive - from one of Macau's four biggest families - had failed to act on the public's demand to sack unsatisfactory officials. "I can see Chui's efforts but his team couldn't help him at all," So said.

Chui's top aide, Secretary for Administration and Justice Florinda da Rosa Silva Chan, is expected to step down, having been in office since Portuguese rule ended in 1999.

Unlike Hong Kong, Macau's Basic Law does not stipulate universal suffrage as the ultimate means of electing the chief executive. That led youngsters disaffected by the widening wealth gap to call for more democracy.

In the run-up to the election on August 31, democracy activists plan to conduct a poll, modelled on Occupy Central's recent unofficial referendum, organiser Sulu Sou Ka-ho said. He promised more details in the coming days.

They plan to ask residents whether the chief should be elected by universal suffrage, and whether they have confidence in Chui, who is likely to be the only candidate in the election.