Negative votes can be helpful in nominating CE candidates
In a recent exclusive interview with China Daily, Elsie Leung, vice-chairwoman of the HKSAR Basic law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said that in order for a person to qualify as a candidate in the 2017 CE election, he or she would require endorsement by at least 50 percent of the Nominating Committee (NC). She said two to four candidates would be appropriate. (Front page, Dec 13) This is one of many interpretations which a democratic procedure by “organizational nomination” or “collective nomination” is likely to have. In the light of Leung’s close relationship with Beijing, her comments should probably be considered an official source of information.
While I acknowledge her contribution to the discussion, I doubt her logic. I don’t think two to four candidates for the 2017 CE election would be selected through this kind of nomination.
Assume, for instance, that there were 1,200 members in the NC and more than 10 people ran as candidates, and that all members of the NC each had to vote for a candidate. Assume also, that a person had to secure 601 votes to qualify as a candidate for the 2017 CE election.
Then, if there were five people who received more than half the votes of the NC, it would be easy to decide that the top four would be candidates for universal suffrage. The remaining six, including the five who did not obtain 50 percent support, would be eliminated. However, it would be very difficult to choose them if there was only one who obtained 50 percent of the support of the NC. Again, what would happen if no one achieved half the votes of the NC? Because they fall outside the two to four assigned quotas, this would be a nomination risk.
Should this type of exercise be repeated? It is possible, but pointless because all NC members would then be required to vote for everyone competing
ough rare, negative votes might work. By this arrangement, all 1,200 members of the NC would be required to vote for all the people who enter the race — twice. One vote would be for, and the other would be against. If there were more than 50 percent of the votes against anyone, then that person should not be selected as a candidate for the 2017 CE election.”
for the top job — rather than just for one person. We would face a deadlock.
I believe that if the quota of two to four were set, then the requirement of at least 50 percent endorsement should be waived. It should be replaced by the higher four criteria, without rejecting those who might not have 50 percent support from the NC. A ceiling of four would suffice. The lower number of two would become meaningless.
If the 50 percent endorsement does go ahead, it should be designed differently. Instead of serving as an instrument for selecting appropriate candidates, it could be used to eliminate inappropriate candidates by negative votes.
Although rare, negative votes might work. By this arrangement, all 1,200 members of the NC would be required to vote for all the people who enter the race — twice. One vote would be for, and the other would be against. If there were more than 50 percent of the votes against anyone, then that person should not be selected as a candidate for the 2017 CE election.
Those with fewer votes against them could become candidates. Their candidacy would depend on their supporting votes (or after subtracting negative votes) and the arrangement of a quota or quorum.
My preference is to recommend the introduction of negative voting system for the following reasons:
First, a negative voting system is similar to a “vote of no confidence” for a cabinet, including the prime minister and the cabinet members. A vote of no confidence is just as important, if not more so, than a vote of confidence. As mentioned in Section 3.19 of the consultation document, it is clear from Article 45 of the Basic Law the power to nominate a CE candidate is vested in the NC only, and that power is substantive. The NC should have the power to have both positive and negative votes for and against anyone who runs as a candidate. No one can be a candidate without having the backing of the NC.
Second, in case all members of the NC can only cast one vote for a candidate without a direct elimination process, and if such a candidate wins the election, there is always the risk the central government may not appoint such a person. This is because it may not see him or her as suitable. A by-election may be necessary. Alternatively, if the NC can exercise the vetting process beforehand, by using negative votes, the risk of the central government not endorsing a candidate will be reduced.
Finally, vetting candidate through negative votes from the NC will reduce the number of CE candidates. If there is a quota of two to four candidates, it could be unpleasant for the fifth candidate and for others who don’t make it. But if there is system of negative votes, this will deter people from inadvertently joining the race. The workloads for the NC and for CE elections will be reduced.
After the public consultation, there will be several proposals suggested for the 2017 CE election. No matter how many there are, the negative voting system should be predominant one. It will serve as a reliable and compatible element for all other proposals.