The SAR Government wants Sunday's elections to be a huge success and hopes for an impressive voter turnout, but judging from the latest predictions by academics and politicians, no one is optimistic. For many, if the voter turnout rate exceeds 30 per cent, that will be a bonus. If it does not, they will not be surprised. Officials who have exhausted every possible way to encourage voters must be disappointed by this dim prospect - after all, this is the SAR's first elections. Isn't it true its success is the best proof Hong Kong people are ruling Hong Kong? What more can the Government do to beat the apathy and who should be responsible if the turnout rate is poor? Ordinary folk may say they should not be blamed. They are confused by the system. Geographical-based direct elections started in Hong Kong in 1991. The second set of direct polls were held four years later. Sunday's elections will be the third. Each time the voting method has been different - in 1991, it was double-seat, double-vote; in 1995, it was single-seat, single-vote; and this time, it is proportional representation and people have to vote for a list of candidates instead of individual aspirants. It is not surprising that voters are puzzled. In their defence, electoral officials can say that it is simple and easy this time - just tick the list of names that you prefer and the job is done. But before that precious tick is given, some voters have to ask: why are they only entitled to one vote when there are three, four or even five seats allocated in their constituency? Why can't they have more than one choice? The Government has little defence here; nor can it convince people familiar with the old, simple system that the new arrangement is necessary. Obviously, if the Government truly believes the new system is the most appropriate mechanism for geographical-based polls, it will have to accept there is a price to pay and that is it will take time for people to accept the new system. A lower turnout seems inevitable. The system alone is not the only factor dampening voters' interests. The quality of the candidates and a lack of well-planned electioneering also account for the apathy. It has been 13 years since elections were introduced to the local legislature, but despite the rapid changes to the electoral system, the same old faces are there. When they go canvassing, it is with the same platforms as 10 years ago. Voters will certainly ask what good will come from electing these old boys? If what they demanded from the Government could not be achieved over the past 10 years, why should the public believe it will be different this time? Do the aspirants have any new ideas and strategies to ensure the people's voice can really shape our future? Regrettably, judging from the candidates' performances at election forums, the voters know competent political leaders are still in short supply. Until last week, candidates were still indulging in negative campaigns - they attacked each other and when it was their turn to address the most pressing problems of today, good ideas were conspicuously missing. Even when they have offered suggestions, they have been no better than the Government's. People need to be convinced that Sunday's elections will make a difference, that tomorrow's Hong Kong will be a better place under the leadership of these politicians. If the aspirants do not possess the qualities to impress the voters, no system can help. Candidates can still make last-minute efforts to convince voters of their intentions. The system may be complicated, the candidates' quality may not be satisfactory, but without voters' participation, democracy will not work here.