Existing organisations not affected by new voter requirements: govt

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Issue 378, Page 5
Word count: 390
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Social organisations which have been established for a minimum of three years in Macau and wish to vote in the 2009 election should submit their registrations to the government before tougher qualification requirements are introduced.

The Legislative Assembly’s First Standing Committee continued to deliberate the amendment bill of the Voters Registration Act yesterday in which lawmakers and government representatives focused on the voter registration process of social organisations.

President of the committee, Kwan Tsui Hang, said the bill suggests that organisations, after being officially recognised for their legal status three years after establishment, shall wait for four more years until they can be given the right to vote in Legislative Council elections.

At present, organisations can apply for the right to vote once they have been established for three years.

Government representatives, including director of the Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau (SAFP), Jose Chu, said the longer qualification process is to make the requirements for organisations be consistent with those for normal citizens who wish to obtain the right to vote.

Mr Chu told lawmakers existing eligible organisations can still be qualified according to the present Voters Registration Act as long as they lodge their registrations to vote before the amendments are in place.

According to Ms Kwan, about 1,000 new social organisations were set up in 2005 which brings the total number in Macau to more than 3,000.

These 1,000 groups will be the last batch not to be restricted by the proposed seven-year qualification process and can register their right to vote this year, the committee president added.

Government representatives said the proposed changes were mainly for organisations founded after the new Act is in effect as well as to monitor their exercise of political rights.

Mr Chu affirmed that the government did not intend to “inhibit the freedom of forming associations or organisations in Macau”, but only wanted to strengthen their social recognition before being allowed to exercise their political right to vote.

After the new Voters Registration Act is in place, Ms Kwan said organisations’ voter qualifications will only be valid for five years and a renewal application must have to be filed 150 days before the expiry date.

In addition, each organisation will need to submit an annual work report to the government or otherwise their voter status could be suspended or even withdrawn.

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