Asia

HK leader Carrie Lam urges voters to cast ballots for Dec 19 Legco election

HONG KONG – Echoing the words of a Chinese official who said the revamped “patriots only” electoral system will ensure Hong Kong’s stability, Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday (Dec 7) urged voters to cast their ballots at the upcoming legislative election now that the city has come out of “the internal political struggle”.

Speaking at a weekly briefing, Mrs Lam noted that there is no target set for voter turnout on Dec 19 – an element that political observers have said would indicate the legitimacy of the new Parliament.

In addressing questions on the Legislative Council (Legco) race, Mrs Lam said this election is more than just about electing a member to the Legco – it also represents the ambitions the government holds for Hong Kong.

She noted that the territory’s relationship with the central government, as well as aspirations to integrate more into the national development, had been “obstructed and disrupted”.

“The purpose of democracy or any political system is to improve the livelihoods of the people, so I am anticipating that after the general election, when the seventh Legislative Council returns on Jan 1 next year, it will be a Legislative Council which is more rational, which is more prepared to work with the Executive, in order to further the interests of Hong Kong,” said Mrs Lam.

She said that so far, 18,000 eligible voters living on the mainland have registered at the three border polling stations set up in a one-off arrangement so they can cast ballots on polling day.

Mrs Lam’s comments came a day after Mr Xia Baolong, the top Chinese official handling Hong Kong and Macau affairs, in a rare move, appealed to registered voters to pick who they want in the Legco.

Mr Xia, the State Council’s chief of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, on Monday called on Hong Kong residents to cast their ballots on Dec 19, saying this is a poll that is fair and represents all social classes, sectors and political camps.

He said in a video recording that the electoral system overhaul in May to ensure only patriots govern has prevented independence and anti-China forces from seeping into the Constitution.

This will be the first LegCo election since an overhaul of the electoral system by the Hong Kong government in May. Under the revamped system, only those deemed patriots are allowed to run for election.

The revamp was based on Beijing’s blueprint laid out in March at the National People’s Congress, China’s national parliamentary meeting. The changes, coupled with the roll-out of the national security law in June last year, will bring order and stability back to the city, the pro-government camp has said.

“Electing patriots to administer Hong Kong is not aiming at singularity, but plurality,” Mr Xia said, adding that Hong Kong had been “blindly pursuing democracy in a Western style” and that this had led to separation, conflict and the 2019 unrest.

He urged voters to exercise their civil rights and vote in the election to push forward democracy in Hong Kong.

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In less than two weeks, about 4.5 million registered voters will be able to choose from among 35 candidates who they want to fill 20 of 90 seats in Parliament.

Another 40 of the seats will be filled by candidates chosen by the city’s Election Committee, while the remaining 30 functional constituency seats will be filled by candidates picked by a mix of individual and corporate electors.

In the 2016 Legco race, 58 per cent of 3.8 million registered voters cast their ballots, higher than the average voter turnout of 51 per cent.

But commentators and observers have said that if voter turnout for this year’s Legco election can hit 25 per cent to 30 per cent, it would be a good showing.

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