Macau has doubled the amount candidates can spend on campaigning in this year's legislative elections, but critics doubt the higher cap will be taken seriously. Elections in the past have been characterised by candidates giving out freebies as part of lavish spending that appeared to exceed by far the maximum allowed, giving wealthy contestants an advantage. Macau's government this week unveiled the new limit of 8.94 million patacas per candidate list, up from 4.32 million in 2005. The higher ceiling means a list of candidates can spend as much as 35.90 patacas per voter, as 249,000 Macau residents have registered for the legislative poll in September. By contrast, there is a HK$2 million spending cap for each list of candidates running for the geographical constituencies in Hong Kong Island, or HK$3.20 per registered voter. Macau's Legislative Assembly is made up of 29 members, with 12 elected by popular vote. As in Hong Kong, Macau voters cast ballots for lists of candidates. Veteran Macau observer Camoes Tam Chi-keung, a lecturer at the University of Macau, said many candidates spent lavishly in past elections and the spending cap was never strictly enforced. 'Except for a small number of poor democrats, few candidates seemed to take the spending cap seriously,' Mr Tam said. Judging by the campaigns in 2005, it was likely some candidates spent more than 10 million patacas, he said. Free meals and other freebies would likely continue in the upcoming election, he said. The Commission Against Corruption of Macau said in its 2006 annual report that the city should learn from Hong Kong in capping election spending to prevent an unfair 'money election'. A Macau government spokesman said the higher spending cap was in line with the city's laws. Under the Legislative Assembly Election Law, spending per candidate list cannot exceed a cap set by the chief executive, which must be lower than 0.02 per cent of Macau's forecast fiscal revenue in the year of the election. Revenue for the 2009 fiscal year is forecast to be 44.7 billion patacas, 0.02 per cent of which is 8.94 million patacas. The 2005 limit was similarly in line with the revenue forecast. The 2005 legislative poll was plagued with scandals ranging from minor bribes to direct vote-buying and an attack on a journalist at a poll station. Police and graft busters arrested dozens of suspects, leading to four trials over ballot-buying. Wu Lin, a running mate of legislators Chan Meng-kam and Ung Choi-kun, was jailed for four years in 2007 over ballot-buying.