Govt, lawmakers disagree on voting rights

Thursday, June 19, 2008
Issue 379, Page 1 & 2
Word count: 381
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The First Standing Committee’s meeting on the Voters Registration Act yesterday saw lawmakers and government representatives hold contradictory views about social organisations’ right to vote if they could not be categorised by any of the existing interest constituencies.

Discussion continued on legal persons’ (social organisations or bodies) voter registration yesterday at the Legislative Assembly in which lawmakers raised an issue of whether bodies with no constituency categories should be able to obtain the right to vote in Assembly elections.

According to president of the standing committee, Kwan Tsui Hang, Macau has already had more than 3,000 legal person registrations but a number of them do not belong to any of the seven interest constituencies as “their natures do not match each other”.

At present, the categories available to confirm the constituency qualification of legal persons are industrial, commercial and finance; labour; professional; social services; education; culture; and sports.

Ms Kwan said the increasing diversity of organisations’ natures such as for hobbies, research studies or animal lovers make such bodies unable to be classified as any of the seven interest constituencies.

The government representatives were inclined to maintain the number of existing constituency categories for legal persons, Ms Kwan said, adding they stressed that the large degree of freedom of forming social organisations in Macau “is not equal to” a voter qualification for legal persons.

Lawmakers, however, said that legal persons’ right to vote should be opened to all organisations or bodies.

Ms Kwan said the topic had been dropped at the moment so as to “give more time for both the standing committee and the government to think and prepare” before discussing the question again in the future.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also demanded the government to list what kind of contents and requirements are for the activity reports eligible legal persons have to submit to the government every year after being qualified for their voters status, Ms Kwan said.

The reports will be served as a reference of whether or not the government will renew voter qualification after a five-year validation period.

Ms Kwan said the standing committee suggested that the government could change the name of “activity reports” to “annual reports” in the bill and so legal persons can follow the requirements stated in the Civil Code to prepare the reports.

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