Pan-democrat divisions on show

Three parties choose not to sign charter calling for voter-nominated chief executive candidates

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:50am

Three mainstream pan-democratic parties have refused to sign a charter prepared by student-led group Scholarism, which identifies the right of voters to nominate candidates for the chief executive poll as a "primary target".

The decisions of the Democratic Party, the Labour Party and the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood have highlighted the rifts among pan-democrats after months of attempts to unite the camp as it pushes for full universal suffrage by 2017.

The Scholarism charter was revised at the last minute over the weekend. The final version states that genuine universal suffrage can only be attained when the public enjoys equal rights to nominate, and to vote for, the chief executive.

Ideas for "civil nomination", such as the proposal to form the future nominating committee from all 3.5 million voters citywide, should be considered a priority, according to the charter. Parties who sign should also rally the public to support the idea in any future voting exercises.

The charter was signed by the Civic Party, the NeoDemocrats, the Neighbourhood and Workers Services Centre, the League of Social Democrats and People Power, which altogether have 11 votes in the Legislative Council. Pan-democratic lawmakers not affiliated to a party were not invited to sign.

"We are grossly disappointed by some pan-democratic parties which disregard the necessity of civil nomination," said Agnes Chow Ting of Scholarism. "They have suggested that nomination by parties or lawmakers is democratic enough. But how can we trust them if they are not even seeking to achieve universal suffrage for Legco by 2016?"

Chow said their proposal was in line with requirements under the Basic Law, which states that any chief executive candidates must be nominated by a "broadly representative" nominating committee in accordance with "democratic procedures".

Democratic Party vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong said the party supported civil nomination in principle but it would only form its stance after considering the outcome of an electronic voting exercise.

"Not signing the charter does not mean we will not promote the idea of civil nomination," he said. "We support the idea but we as a political party also have the responsibility to look into the practical side of how it works before we make a pledge."

Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said her party shared "the same direction" with Scholarism on civil nomination, but that a nominating committee consisting of all voters would not be feasible.

The Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition of 26 pan-democratic lawmakers, earlier set out three proposals for universal suffrage, two of which included the idea of nomination by voters. Scholarism will meet with the alliance to discuss the proposals on Wednesday.

Separately, Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said she believed a system of party politics was the way forward for the city.

"Hong Kong people should be able to elect the ruling party or a ruling coalition," she said on RTHK's Hong Kong Letter programme.

"The chief executive should be allowed to belong to a political party and he or she can form an alliance with political parties in Legco. Some members of the ruling party would be appointed as principal officials and they would be part of the chief executive's cabinet."