The stakes are high in the coming Legislative Council election, so the temptation to rig the results will be even higher. It behoves the government and the election watchdog to be especially vigilant, given the widespread fraud that was detected in last year's district council election. The ICAC, after all, has arrested 52 people in connection with vote-rigging.
Here is a chance for the new and highly unpopular government of Leung Chun-ying to prove its mettle by making sure it toughens monitoring to prevent voter fraud, and to make sure it has enough manpower to do it. This is the kind of action that the pan-democrats would have to support, and impossible for the pro-business and pro-Beijing crowd to object to.
Unfortunately, gaping loopholes remain and it may be too late to address them for the coming election. As we reported yesterday, many companies are registering multiple voting company entities at the same addresses to get extra votes in their own functional constituencies. This practice is illegal for individual voters but allowed for companies.
The Electoral Affairs Commission is the key watchdog over all this. But its performance in the last election was incompetent and disgraceful. In the end, it was the police and the Independent Commission Against Corruption that took decisive action.
Given their performance, it's debatable whether commission chairman Mr Justice Barnabas Fung Wah and the two members, Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC and Professor Andrew Chan Chi-fai, a specialist in marketing, are the best people to oversee our democratic exercise.
To be fair, the commission and the Registration and Electoral Office have carried out an unprecedented check on 1.7 million voters to verify their addresses and status. As a result, 216,000 people lost their voting rights because they failed to respond. So it turned out to be an effective way to disenfranchise a significant portion of our 3.46-million-strong electorate - surely not a good thing!
Fung and company must do a better job this time, both for their own sake and ours.