High voter turnout in Macau shakes up political status quo as youngest ever lawmaker elected
Government’s handling of recent typhoon cited as fuelling discontent in city
High voter turnout in Macau legislative elections has shaken up the city’s political status quo and delivered a black eye to top officials over their inept handling of a deadly typhoon that slammed the casino hub weeks before the polls.
Among the trio of newcomers is pro-democracy campaigner, Sulu Sou, 26, who will become the youngest ever person to take a seat in Macau’s Legislative Assembly. His New Macau Progressives group advocates a legislature fully elected by universal suffrage.
While the pro-establishment camp maintained its position as the biggest bloc in the assembly, the Macau United Citizens Association, backed by power broker, Chan Meng-kam, of the city’s influential Fujianese community, lost two of its three seats.
The two other newly-elected candidates were independent Agnes Lam Iok-fong, of Civic Watch, and Leong Sun-iok, of the pro-establishment Macau Federation of Trade Unions.
Another surprise came when José Maria Pereira Coutinho, a controversial and vocal critic of the Macau government whom many thought would lose, was re-elected. He won by a margin of more than 1,000 votes.
Angela Leong, managing director and CEO of casino company SJM Holdings, was one of a handful of candidates from the gaming industry to win seats. She is the fourth wife of casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun.
Macau’s Electoral Affairs Committee chairman Tong Hio-fong said 174,872 ballots had been cast in the direct election, representing a voter turnout of 57.22 per cent – up from 53 per cent in the last polls in 2013.
Veteran Macau watcher and political commentator, Sonny Lo Shui-hing, said the results reflected discontent in the former Portuguese enclave.
“It would appear that Macau voters are not happy with the performance of the government, especially after the ravages of Typhoon Hato,” he said.
Macau suffered an economic loss of US$1.42 billion in the storm’s wake.
“The political clout, in a formal legislative sense, of candidates with links to the casino industry also appear to have reached their apex, and with Chan Meng Kam not running his grouping suffered,” he added. “It seems voters do not want to see more casino representatives or casino-related groups get more representatives into the legislature.”
Lo believed the results meant Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on would have a “lot of thinking to do” about the seven people he is authorised to appoint to the 33-member legislative body, of which 14 are directly elected and 12 indirectly.
Lawyer Carlos Lobo, a long-time Macau resident, described the results as a “major surprise”.
“I believe these election results are a major surprise in the sense that they have redrawn the balance of power in the Legislative Assembly.
“This is especially the case for Chan Meng Kam’s group and has very significant consequences for the election of a new chief executive in 2019 and the redrafting of gaming laws as the casino licence concession renewals draw ever closer,” he said.