Two veteran Beijing loyalists have endorsed a proposal that members of the nominating committee for the 2017 chief executive election cast multiple votes in an internal ballot before putting forward candidates.
One of them said this would ensure the top candidates all had the support of a majority of committee members. The proposal is at odds with the preferences of moderate democrats and goes further than those of other pro-government figures.
The pair's endorsement came a day after the top Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs spoke of the necessity of electing "patriotic" chief executives.
The Basic Law states the chief executive shall be elected by universal suffrage upon nomination by a committee in accordance with democratic procedures.
Moderate pan-democrats have argued that aspirants should be nominated as soon as they have the support of, for example, an eighth of the committee members - which would give three million voters a choice of up to eight candidates.
Other pro-government figures have suggested the committee nominate two to four candidates and that the contenders should be decided by an internal primary, in which every committee member has a vote and the top candidates win nomination.
But a veteran Beijing loyalist, who declined to be named, argued yesterday it could be "fairer" if each committee member were allowed to cast multiple votes. "The committee can eventually put forward three candidates [for the public vote]," this person said. "And [to achieve that,] it's fairer for committee members to be allowed to cast up to three votes … because this will make sure that the top three candidates have the committee's majority support."
In 2012, the 36 local deputies to the NPC were elected by block votes, when about 1,600 voters were asked to vote for 36 candidates out of 52. As the electorate was dominated by Beijing loyalists, two pan-democrats and some low-profile independents lost by a wide margin.
Yesterday a Hong Kong deputy said that while the NPC election "was only an example", which might not be perfect, the "multiple vote" proposal must not be ruled out.
"If we cannot achieve [universal suffrage] in 2017, some people will be clapping their hands and celebrating," the deputy said, without naming anyone. "So we must discuss how the nominating committee should be formed, how big should it be, how many candidates should be nominated and how to do so."
Then-Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan lost the 2012 election heavily in a three-horse race with Leung Chun-ying and Henry Tang Ying-yen, after winning the support of about one-sixth of the 1,193 election committee members.
After the end of a public consultation on political reform in May, the Hong Kong government will seek the NPC's approval to launch an electoral overhaul.
On Thursday, Zhang Dejiang , the NPC chairman, warned the city could face "disastrous consequences" if it adopted Western-style democracy.
Speaking in a discussion by Hong Kong deputies yesterday, executive councillor and deputy Cheng Yiu-tong, in an apparent reference to the pan-democrats, said some people had "deceived Hongkongers, despite their understanding of the Basic Law" on electoral reform.