Public supports quality elections ahead of universal suffrage: report

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Issue 343, Page 2
Word count: 596
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Opinions collected from the public regarding the three amendment bills of Macau’s political system were supportive, Secretary for Administration and Justice Florinda Chan said yesterday, adding the result coincided with the government’s plan of improving the election’s quality before a universal suffrage can be attained.

Secretary Chan and her cabinet gave a press conference at the government headquarters yesterday to release results of the public consultation held during March for the revision of the Voter Registration Act, the Chief Executive Election Law and the Legislative Assembly Election Law.

The amendment bills were drafted to specially cater for the third Chief Executive and the fourth Legislative Assembly elections that will be held in the same year of 2009, the Secretary said.

A spokesperson of the Executive Council, Tong Chi Kin, also announced yesterday that discussion on the proposed changes was complete and the bills will be passed on to the Assembly for deliberation “within a short period of time”.

During the consultation period between February 28 and March 31, director of the Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau (SAFP), Jose Chu, said nearly 7,500 opinion items were collected from written submissions, explanatory and open consultation sessions as well as online forums.

Of the 7,500 opinion items, Mr Chu said 86.5 percent or 6,458 agreed to the government’s consultation documents that contained nine major revision areas.

“The figures show the majority of the society supports the ideas of raising the quality of elections and promoting the healthy development of democracy steadily,” he added.

Revision items including the optimisation of the voter registration system (eligible citizens aged 17 can file advance registrations and the abolishment of the Voter Identity Cards), tougher requirements for social organisations wishing to obtain the political right to vote for the Assembly election, and the increase of competency for the Electoral Management Committee all saw support of between 70 and 100 percent from the public.

According to Secretary Chan, combating corruption in elections was one of the main focuses of the revision.

Ninety-eight percent of the 1,232 opinions received were in favour of the proposed anti-corruption measures including the incrimination of bribing election candidates and the introduction of a “compensation mechanism” which encourages those accused of accepting bribes to testify against their bribers in return for a reduced or waived penalty.

Among all of the public opinions obtained, the Secretary said some items had been added to guarantee a “fair, impartial and clean” election next year.

For example a candidate found guilty of corruption will have all of the votes from his party cancelled and a by-election will be called to fill the candidate vacancy.

In addition, the public suggested that only a prison sentence is the just punishment for those found guilty of corruption, resulting in the fine option being scraped.

Although no universal suffrage will be attained in 2009, Secretary Chan said lifting the quality of the electoral system was also part of the democratic development and a progressive approach had been adopted to reach this goal.

As the public supported retaining the present numbers of direct seats, indirect seats and the Chief Executive-appointed seats at the Assembly, improving the quality of elections became the focus of the review, said the secretary.

Some opinions also suggested the political system development in Hong Kong and Macau are different and therefore universal suffrage is not applicable in Macau.

Tong Chi Kin said yesterday the three proposed amendment bills “have completely adhered to the spirit of the Basic Law” and “every opinion collected is valuable to the government and had been studied by the Executive Council”.

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