Neg­a­tive votes can be help­ful in nom­i­nat­ing CE can­di­dates

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK COMMENT - SONG SIO- CHONG The au­thor is a HK vet­eran com­men­ta­tor and pro­fes­sor at the Re­search Center of Hong Kong and Ma­cao Ba­sic Laws, Shen­zhen Univer­sity.

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

A‘lth‘

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.

Song Sio-chong

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