With the approaching Legislative Assembly (AL) election in September, we are once again being reminded of the civic powerlessness of the public and the shameless ineptitude of the government.
The Electoral Affairs Commission (CAEAL) is back in town to mismanage a two-week window in which 14 of the 33 Macau lawmakers will campaign for four-year terms in the legislature.
As always, the candidates for this year’s election will be tied, strung up, blindfolded and duct-taped.
These are the rules laid out by the CAEAL, which has the stated purpose of maintaining “electoral fairness”, though the body has never been able to explain exactly what it is trying to achieve through its draconian rules.
For example, it remains unclear exactly what the two-week campaign period and censorship of coverage before and during this period is actually intended to do. One would assume it is to ‘protect citizens’ from the super-confusing and stressful time that elections are supposed to be. Or perhaps it is to avoid candidates campaigning on actual issues and entrench the preferred method of tribal voting.
Now, as we approach the election period, the CAEAL will arbitrarily decide who to investigate and prosecute based on the tried-and-tested formula of who has the shiniest kowtow record. It’s a system that was dreamed up in the age of feudalism but perfected in the modern day.
After the Portuguese and English Press Association sent a letter to the CAEAL last week demanding clarification on how – or whether – the entity will enforce the ‘media silence’, we are still none the clearer on the organization’s actual policy. We are therefore none the clearer on the electoral law itself.
But in Macau, the rule of the law does not apply when it is not convenient for it to do so. Not when the government is involved and not when it has a stake.
It is in this context that I support the association launched earlier this year by former New Macau Association (ANM) leader, Jason Chao. He has begun managing an independent, non-governmental election monitoring organization as a counterweight to the CAEAL.
It is the natural extrapolation of the best form of resistance symbolized and practiced by ANM. It represents a challenge to the government’s monopoly in interpreting the law and restricting the scope of public debate, in the same vein that a separate panda cub naming competition held by ANM last year was a challenge to the official, government one.
Language is ultimately a powerful tool and can be used to undermine authority. Establishing alternative names for concepts, people and institutions siphons power away from those who maintain authority through the threat and use of force and, of course, through propaganda. It is the ideal, non-violent form of resistance, because in a society without blatant censorship it cannot be easily shut down.
That is also why I have called in the past for a “Committee Against Corruption at the Commission Against Corruption”, to investigate the ludicrous decisions made by that derisible department. This would not only undermine the “anti-corruption” bureau, by pointing out its own corrupt decision-
making, but it would also serve as a means of actually identifying malpractice in government and business.
The Macau public is limited in its ability to affect change at the local government level. We can, however, change how the wider public views those at the top through the use of language – we can use names that call attention to corruption.