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Two lessons can be learnt from the Chief Executive (CE) Election campaign. On Feb 27, Jasper Tsang declared he would not participate as a candidate to become the next CE. By late Wednesday, as the nomination period drew to a close, only three candidates had filed nomination papers: Albert Ho, Henry Tang and CY Leung. It appears more than 300 of the 1,200 Election Committee (EC) members remained undecided. The EC members will decide which candidate will become the next CE on the election day, March 25.
This campaign is different from the previous CE Elections in which one might forecast the winner easily. No one will make a sure bet this time. The reasons are:
1) The rules for this election have been changed. In the present campaign, no winner can be declared until one candidate has a clear majority of 601 of the 1,200 electoral votes. In previous elections, the candidate with the most votes would be declared the winner.
2) Margins in the list of nominees are not wide enough to make a safe surmise this time. Tang has 391 nominations, Leung 305 and Ho 188, meaning none of the candidates is even close to having enough support to win a clear majority. It appears unlikely that any candidate will achieve a first ballot victory.
3) Many EC members have second thoughts about their votes due to the dizzying scandals and controversies that have swirled about the campaign lately. Though many who are giving their initial choices a second thought are reluctant to withdraw their nominations from any candidate, many have indicated that they may change their preferences when the time comes to cast their ballots. The integrity-credibility factor has become an issue in this campaign. Some will cast empty ballots and others may switch sides.
EC members may nominate a candidate, but they are under no obligation to vote for that candidate and are free to change their preferences. Although this sounds like “political schizophrenia”, it is not implausible. There is no rule prohibiting an elector from changing preferences. Annex I of the Basic Law states, “members of the Election Committee shall vote in their individual capacity.” That means they can vote for whomever they please.
Second, while the filed nomination papers must be signed and are accessible to public, voting is carried out by secret ballot and the right to vote freely is enshrined in the Basic Law.
Finally, the electoral process encourages EC members to be flexible to changing their preferences in the course of balloting as a means to avoid a deadlocked election. If no candidate wins a clear majority of 601 votes or more, the candidate with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated and a second ballot held between the two candidates who won the most votes. Once more, all electors are free to decide which candidate to support.
In case of an impasse on March 25, the CE Election ordinance stipulates a new round of nominations will be held within two weeks, followed by a second election. If I calculate correctly, the re-election would be held on May 6 at the earliest, and the closing date for re-nomination would be April 14 the latest. Such an eventuality is not all that remote, and the government must be prepared for it.
Two lessons can be derived from the present CE election. One is that those seeking the highest post in the city should show able and wise leadership, and be both virtuous and sagacious. They should love and be loyal to both the country and to Hong Kong, and to be capable of implementing “One Country, Two Systems”. Their platforms and policies should reenergize Hong Kong and serve the very best interests of the general public, particularly those who are in great need.