How ev­ery­one can ben­e­fit from uni­ver­sal suf­frage

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK COMMENT - HO LOK SANG The au­thor is di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy Stud­ies at Ling­nan Univer­sity.

In my last ar­ti­cle, I stressed that all stake­hold­ers should ben­e­fit from a sound uni­ver­sal suf­frage sys­tem for the elec­tion of the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive (CE) in 2017. The stake­hold­ers in­clude Hong Kong res­i­dents, the cen­tral govern­ment, and the Hong Kong SAR Govern­ment. Find­ing a sound way to im­ple­ment uni­ver­sal suf­frage is in everybody’s in­ter­est. So all stake­hold­ers should work to­gether, and the first step must be build­ing trust.

I have ar­gued that all stake­hold­ers’ wor­ries are real: Bei­jing has its wor­ries; the Hong Kong pub­lic has its wor­ries; and the SAR govern­ment also has its con­cerns. To al­le­vi­ate Bei­jing’s wor­ries of a CE can­di­date or a CE-elect be­com­ing sub­ver­sive of the cen­tral govern­ment, I have pro­posed re­quir­ing all CE-as­pi­rants to make a legally bind­ing pledge to abide by the Ba­sic Law and the Chi­nese Con­sti­tu­tion. My other pro­pos­als are: First, the Nom­i­na­tion Com­mit­tee (NC) should be ex­panded to in­clude mem­bers who are di­rectly elected by qual­i­fied vot­ers. This can be done with or with­out ref­er­ence to the four sec­tors orig­i­nally in­cluded in the Elec­tion Com­mit­tee. If the four­sec­tor struc­ture is to be re­tained, a can­di­date for the NC needs to de­clare which of the four sec­tors he or she be­longs to and this as­so­ci­a­tion with the sec­tor must be con­firmed. All con­firmed can­di­dates will con­test for the ex­panded mem­ber­ship in their rel­e­vant sec­tors. Al­ter­na­tively, in ad­di­tion to the four sec­tors as rec­om­mended by the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, a to­tally new class of NC mem­bers can be elected from among el­i­gi­ble vot­ers from each of the 18 dis­tricts in Hong Kong. The ex­panded mem­ber­ship

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ben­e­fits of mak­ing the neg­a­tive vote avail­able to vot­ers is to ac­cu­rately re­flect voter choice, en­cour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion, and more im­por­tantly, to elim­i­nate can­di­dates, who while hav­ing size­able sup­port from many vot­ers, are also ve­he­mently dis­liked by many oth­ers.”

should not be too small, and should num­ber up to half the mem­ber­ship in the orig­i­nal Elec­tion Com­mit­tee. As a re­sult, the di­rectly elected NC mem­bers will num­ber at most one-third of the en­tire mem­ber­ship. Be­cause this still leaves twothirds of the mem­ber­ship un­touched, the pro­posal is con­sis­tent with the con­cept of “grad­u­al­ism”.

I would pro­pose that sup­port from 10 per­cent of the ex­panded NC would qual­ify one to be­come a CE can­di­date. This rather lib­eral re­quire­ment for one to be­come a CE can­di­date is pro­posed to win the trust of the Hong Kong pub­lic and al­le­vi­ate their fears that the race is a pre­de­ter­mined one with lit­tle cred­i­bil­ity. I would strongly rec­om­mend a lib­eral nom­i­na­tion process be­cause the cred­i­bil­ity of the nom­i­na­tion process as a fair one is ex­tremely im­por­tant to the suc­cess of the en­tire ex­er­cise.

Sec­ond, I would pro­pose a two-round vot­ing process. In the first round, the aim is to select two fi­nal­ists. In the sec­ond round the CE will be elected.

I pro­pose that in the first round, each voter has two votes that he or she can cast to sup­port two can­di­dates who may be­come fi­nal­ists. How­ever, I would also pro­pose that vot­ers can use one or both votes to show their non-con­fi­dence in one or two can­di­dates. Each neg­a­tive vote will negate a pos­i­tive vote. In the first round, the two can­di­dates with the big­gest net sup­port will go into the sec­ond round.

In the sec­ond round, no neg­a­tive vote will be ap­pli­ca­ble. Each voter will have cast one vote on the can­di­date of his choice. The can­di­date with a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of sup­port will win the elec­tion.

The pro­posal to al­low vot­ers to cast a neg­a­tive vote in the first round is en­tirely demo­cratic. This is be­cause democ­racy im­plies that the true as­pi­ra­tions of the vot­ers can be ac­cu­rately ex­pressed and can trans­late into ef­fec­tive sup­port or re­jec­tion of a can­di­date.

The neg­a­tive vote or the right to re­ject is tech­ni­cally easy to im­ple­ment elec­tron­i­cally. Vot­ers cer­tainly un­der­stand what is sup­port and what is re­jec­tion. All that they need to do is to press “sup­port” or “re­ject” un­der the names of the can­di­dates. Af­ter the vot­ing has been com­pleted the sys­tem will im­me­di­ately gen­er­ate the net num­ber of net sup­port for all the can­di­dates.

The ben­e­fits of mak­ing the neg­a­tive vote avail­able to vot­ers is to ac­cu­rately re­flect voter choice, en­cour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion, and more im­por­tantly, to elim­i­nate can­di­dates, who while hav­ing size­able sup­port from many vot­ers, are also ve­he­mently dis­liked by many oth­ers. Be­cause the Hong Kong pub­lic is mostly prag­matic, the pro­posed vot­ing sys­tem will very likely elim­i­nate rad­i­cals and pro­duce a CE who is prag­matic and widely ac­cepted. This screen­ing process is through a thor­oughly demo­cratic and trans­par­ent method and is en­tirely fair.

Ho Lok-sang

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