Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on was re-elected uncontested as Macau's chief executive yesterday in a choreographed exercise that prompted thousands of residents to demand universal suffrage.
Chui was selected by a 400-strong election committee made up mainly of pro-Beijing elites and politicians. They gave him 95.96 per cent support, or 380 of the 396 votes cast, up from 95.3 per cent in 2009.
There were a record 16 blank or invalid votes, however, due partly to an expansion of the election committee from 300 in 2009.
The election took place a day after the end of an unofficial seven-day "civil referendum" in which 95 per cent of 8,688 residents voted in favour of universal suffrage for the 2019 election.
There were complaints of rights violations last week after police arrested several organisers of the referendum for allegedly breaching personal data laws.
Unlike Hong Kong's Basic Law, Macau's mini-constitution makes no mention of universal suffrage as a goal. But calls for democracy have been growing.
Chui was reluctant to talk about his re-election result. "The statistics are out now, but I will not comment on it," he said. "I am thankful … for the chance to serve the Macau public."
He did acknowledge shortfalls in his first term - culminating in a May rally against a proposed bill that would have lavished benefits on outgoing chief executives and other government officials.
"In retrospect, many social problems could have been resolved more expeditiously and effectively", Chui said.
Bill Chou Kwok-ping, a core referendum campaigner with the New Macau Association, said: "It is time for the government to face up to reality and launch political reform."
Chou said that all personal data collected in the referendum had been permanently erased from the computer system.
Fellow activist Sulu Sou Ka-hou said: "The less sincere the government is about political reform, the likelier it is for political activism to grow."
Chui said he would focus on economic diversification away from the gambling sector - an industry that generates more income in the former Portuguese enclave than anywhere else in the world. "We will … speed up and enhance an appropriate economic diversification and spare no effort to improve social well-being," Chui said in his victory speech.
At a press conference later, he said: "When we review gambling policies later, we will … resolve the social injustices caused by the domination of a single industry."
Angela Leong On-kei, fourth wife of gaming tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun and an election committee member, said continued effort was needed to ensure the gaming businesses nurtured the growth of small and medium-sized local enterprises.