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2012 Policy Address: Last chance for political reform

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image Local residents should be able to elect more representatives to the Legislative Assembly in 2013, instead of just 12, political science experts said

More needs to be done for Macau to adopt political reforms and now is the right time to act, political science experts say. In 2013, residents will vote to choose the Legislative Assembly’s members and electoral laws should be amended by then, they claim.
The fact that two of Macau’s traditional associations have also called for reforms has raised expectations for next year’s policy address, which the Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On will deliver today, at 3 pm.
“It’s time to think about the political reform, specially by generating debate among the society,” said Eilo Yu Wing Yat, a public administration professor at the University of Macau.
“The increase in the number of directly elected legislators must be a pressure and a demand in the society. We need to think about political issues and not only focus on social issues,” he pointed out.
Political science expert Eric Sautedé calls for “courage and vision” in the 2012 Policy Address. “The courage to finally go for ‘substantial’ (versus cosmetic) democratic reform,” he explained.
“It has to happen now, more seats returned through direct elections and the scrapping of the seven seats allocated by the Chief Executive, because the next legislative elections are in 2013 and also because Hong Kong is already having its own first step towards universal suffrage in 2012,” he said.

‘The increase in the number of directly elected legislators must be a pressure and a demand in the society. We need to think about political issues and not only focus on social issues’

- Eilo Yu Wing Yat

Of the 29 lawmakers in the Legislative Assembly, the public directly elects only 12, while 10 are indirectly elected and the Chief Executive appoints seven.
On the other hand, Sautedé says the government’s top official should announce policies that go beyond one-year perspective. A government needs to have a long-term vision, he highlighted.
He also urges the Administration to have “the courage to assess both accomplishments and failures of public policies – especially the unacceptable delays, either for the LRT [light rapid rail system] or the Cotai public hospital”.
“A vision for the happiness of the people of Macau [ought] to be taken seriously, regarding healthcare, housing, purchasing power, leisure facilities and the environment,” he added.
When campaigning for the government’s top post in 2009, Chui promised to launch a public debate on political reform, but has said little in the past two years.
Some observers have hinted that he may announce today some reforms in the political field. Those expectations grew even higher since two of the city’s more influential associations agreed that it is time to walk towards a more open system.
“It’s the right time” to move forward with a reform of the local political system, chairman of the Macau General Union of the Neighbourhood Associations (UGAMM) – known as ‘Kai Fong’ in Cantonese – said recently.

‘It has to happen now, more seats returned through direct elections and the scrapping of the seven seats allocated by the Chief Executive, because the next legislative elections are in 2013 and also because Hong Kong is already having its own first step towards universal suffrage in 2012’

- Eric Sautedé

When meeting with the Chief Executive, the association urged Chui Sai On to increase the number of directly and indirectly elected seats at the Legislative Assembly.
The Federation of Trade Unions (FAOM) hasn’t got concrete proposals, but it also believes it is time to adopt some reforms.
“It is the right moment to promote a debate on the changes that should be introduced in the Legislative Assembly and the Chief Executive’s election committee,” said FAOM’s Ella Lei Cheng I quoted by Portuguese-language newspaper Ponto Final.
“It would be good if the Chief Executive could include the political reform in next year’s policy address,” she added. 

‘Changes required’

Despite believing that the local community is not in favour of drastic changes in the political system, political commentator Larry So Man Yum has no reservations saying what needs to be done: “Changes in the election of the Chief Executive and the AL are required.”
The electoral committee of the Chief Executive should have more representatives, he said, by adding more sectors from professional groups, such as media and social affairs.
The Kai Fong also called for an increase in the number of members of Chief Executive’s election committee, which is currently made up of 300 people.

‘There is a wide consensus among society that there is a deficit of directly-elected lawmakers and that the number of members in the Chief Executive’s election committee should increase’ 

- Pereira Coutinho

In contrast, lawmaker José Pereira Coutinho is sure that the society is open to political changes.
“There is a wide consensus among society that there is a deficit of directly-elected lawmakers and that the number of members in the Chief Executive’s election committee should increase,” he said.
“This is a way to address the Basic Law when it states that Macau should be governed by its people.”
In a recent interview with the Macau Daily Times, Professor Joseph Cheng said Macau should take further steps towards democracy. A professor of Political Science at the City University of Hong Kong, Cheng has been heavily involved in the pro-democracy movement in the neighbouring region.
“More and more people believe in the value of political participation. They feel it has to do with the meaning of life, with your own dignity and protecting your own rights,” he said.
Another important step would be to implement the accountability system for government officials, said Larry So.
“The community does not want higher officials accountable only to the Chief Executive,” he stated.
“We want our officials accountable to the community, to the people. For those who are not able to do so, a mechanism should be in place for them to step down.”

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