Registration turnout sign of growing democratic awareness A record number of people have registered to vote in Macau's legislative election this year amid signs the public's awareness of their electoral rights is growing. About 250,000 residents had registered by the deadline of Wednesday. The government has yet to release the exact figure. Long queues were seen at registration booths on Wednesday, and the government said more than 3,000 people registered on the final day. There were 159,813 registered voters for the 2001 legislative election and 220,653 for the 2005 election. About 400,000 residents in Macau, a city of 557,400 people, were eligible for registration. Political commentator Larry So Man-yum said people in Macau, traditionally known as reserved and apolitical, were psyching themselves up for greater participation in public affairs. 'Waves of civic activism have emboldened Macau residents and boosted their interest in voting,' said Dr So, an associate professor of social work at the Macau Polytechnic Institute. 'Young professionals who are increasingly active in public affairs are also changing the electoral landscape.' Grass-roots workers and a small number of democracy advocates used to be the driving force behind Macau's civic activism. But rapid economic growth in the past few years has brought social ills, embittering not only poor workers but also the middle class. Teachers, social workers, conservationists and even civil servants have begun joining grass-roots residents in public protests. The rise in eligible voters is due in part to the government's efforts to encourage people to register. In November, the Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau set up mobile registration booths at more than 20 locations. Bureau employees often worked overtime or at weekends to facilitate the registration process. Registration was open to Macau permanent residents aged 18 or over. Seventeen-year-olds were allowed to pre-register but their right to vote depends on whether they turn 18 before the legislative election in September, the date for which has yet to be fixed. People eligible to vote in 2005 did not have to re-register. The December 31 deadline was enshrined in a voter registration law which took effect in October. Legislator Jose Coutinho said the deadline was unreasonably early, and had limited the number of registered voters. 'To my knowledge, many people interested in voting have missed the deadline,' he said. 'I don't see any technical or legal necessity to close registration nine months before the election.' The registration deadline for the 2005 legislative election was only 90 days before the day of election. He also called on the authorities to change a rule that would limit the voting rights of several thousand civil servants and police officers. People will have to vote in the district where they live, but civil servants and police officers administering voting booths and maintaining public order on the day of the election will have just a small window of opportunity during their lunch break to cast their ballots. 'They should be allowed to vote where they work on the day of election, rather than where they live,' Mr Coutinho said.