Road to universal suffrage does not end in 2017, lawmaker says

Beijing-loyalist lawmaker says number of people who can vote for nominating committee should be increased from previous 200,000

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 4:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 5:36pm

The 2017 election for chief executive is not the "definite end" of the path to universal suffrage, a Beijing-loyalist lawmaker says.

One possibility could be to slowly broaden the franchise for electing the committee that will nominate candidates for the job, Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said.

The public is due to choose its leader by popular ballot from 2017, but the mechanism for nominating candidates is a key point of contention, with pan-democrats concerned that a nominating committee will filter out critical voices.

But Leung says the idea of public nomination - in which anyone could run for chief executive with enough nominations from ordinary voters - deviates from the city's mini-constitution.

"The idea is challengeable under the Basic Law," said Leung, a member of the Business and Professionals Alliance. "We should do our best to maximise what we can achieve within the framework instead."

Leung suggested public nominations could play an informal role in the election process.

She is working with at least 10 academics specialising in politics, finance and the law to put forward an electoral reform proposal, to be released by the end of this month. They include Dr Chang Chak-yan, convenor of the Silent Majority pressure group, City University economist Dr Chan Yan-chong, Chinese University professor of finance Chak Wong and Professor Jin Banggui, a French legal expert.

Broadening the franchise for the nominating committee and making it bigger than the 1,200-strong body that elected Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying last year are under consideration.

"In the previous election, only about 200,000 people had the right to vote for representatives in the committee," Leung said. "We should try to expand the voter base so more people can choose the committee members."

She said all voters could one day be involved in electing committee members.

"The broadening [of the nominating committee] is an ongoing process and should be done step by step," she said.

Leung say she personally believes the number of candidates must be limited to enable meaningful debates, adding: "Three to five would be appropriate."

The government pledged this week to begin a public consultation on the 2017 poll before the end of this year.