Friday, November 27, 2015   

Time calls for suffrage momentum

Mary Ma

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Will there be a primary election or some form of internal ballot to select candidates for a more popular vote in the 2017 chief executive election?

Although there is no conclusive answer at present, the possibility of a preliminary vote has dominated news headlines since it was presented by a local newspaper as being leaked by an authoritative source close to Beijing.

Was it merely the personal view of the source, a veteran NPC deputy?

Or was it a balloon deliberately released to test the political weather?

If it wasn't either of the above, could the so-called disclosure have been made to spark public discussion, with the chief executive adamant not to handle it now?

It's hard to say precisely at this point.

But it is often common practice to filter out some candidates in the early stages of an election because it would simply be impractical to have them all running in the final round.

The pertinent question is how this filtering can be achieved fairly.

In a mature democracy like the United States, there is an established system in which political parties perform the screening first.

Hong Kong doesn't have a mature system like that and it would be unfair to use the American model as the standard.

Greater efforts are needed in answering this pivotal question for the 2017 election.

The Basic Law provides for a nomination committee to put forward candidates for a popular election.

But it doesn't say how this should be done apart from the condition that it be done through a democratic procedure.

Beijing has made clear that the chief executive must be patriotic.

That is a rather subjective term, and it is no secret that Beijing will put up hurdles to restrict access to the race.

The question is how low or high the hurdles will be?

It is unthinkable that the hurdles would be so low that everyone can participate, or so high that they would be altogether impossible to clear.

The issue of the 2017 chief executive election was completely ignored in Leung Chun-ying's maiden policy address in January.

But the same issue received unprecedented emphasis in Beijing.

On the surface, there seems to be a degree of discord between the two. But that is impossible in Chinese politics.

It's more likely that Beijing's lead and the chief executive's delay are indeed part of an exercise.

With its tough words on patriotism, Beijing has moved to lower public expectations for the 2017 vote.

By the time Leung presents the blueprint next year, the public will be largely used to the reality that they can't have an unpatriotic chief executive.

Public discussion on the issue has been raging since talk of an internal vote surfaced, and heavyweights from across the political spectrum have queued up to offer their comments.

There's even speculation that Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee could run against Leung in 2017.

The ripples will continue to spread. But they will unlikely magnify to become a giant wave.

Nonetheless, the vigorous responses show there's a strong desire in society that the thorny political issue be dealt with early.

Therefore, it would be better to start public consultation sooner rather than later.

Deferring the issue may edge us toward a crisis over universal suffrage.

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