One thing I’ve learnt over the years is to drastically lower my expectations. Mind you, I don’t mean to be ironic or even nasty: after all one of the main conditions of happiness resides in one’s capacity to lessen the probable discrepancy between over-ambitious objectives and the biting reality principle.
Hope and a renewed horizon for uplifting expectations do exist in Macao politics, but again, measured on a Richter scale, the extent of change in the wake of the September 17 legislative elections looks more like a slight tremor than a full-blown earthquake. And then, depending on where you stand, it will feel more like a magnitude 1 quake in Hong Kong and most of the world — nobody feels anything; a magnitude 3 in most of Macao — people near the epicentre feel it; and possibly a magnitude 5 if you venture on UMAC’s campus on Hengqin or, of course, in Calçada de Santo Agostinho, where the siege of New Macau Association (NMA) is situated.
Most of the press in Hong Kong just counted four pan-democrats being elected, characterising Agnes Lam Iok Feng as “rising establishment”. This simple diminishing head-count was enough for one of the major international news agencies to simply drop the idea of writing a lengthy special feature on the event.
And then, many comments by analysts were pretty dismissive of the final outcome: after all, was I told, the Macao-Guangdong Union — an ageing pro-establishment communal grouping backed by the Liaison Office — had come first in terms of total votes for a single list. And the fact that the list conducted by Mak Soi Kun had fared worse this time around than it had in 2013, loosing one percentage point of the votes, seemed to be of no consequence, even when sizing up this result with the 17.77% gathered by the three NMA-sprouted lists put together.
Ultimately, it proved very difficult to convince outsiders that society had won over pro-business interests, and that both a rational-posturing academic and a happening-prone 26-year old democratic militant could potentially play a game-changing role. For me, there is no doubt that the windows of the Macao Legislative Assembly are going to widen, and its walls, ceiling and floor pushed out.
In a way, the result for the so-called “indirectly- elected legislators” and the lining-up of the brand new seven appointees are already echoing the change.
For the indirectly-elected legislators who face no competition, and for whom the selection process is institutionally rigged, the message could not be clearer: it is simply farcical — two Chui relatives still and Fernando Chui’s former chief campaigner for the 2014 election — and thus forces of conservatism have come to embody the caricature of patronage and illegitimate representativeness.
I confess that I have always been strongly against the idea of having seven legislators appointed by the Chief Executive: whatever the rationale in an executive-led system, I have always felt that it was too gross a meddling of the executive power in the legislative branch of government — and in no small way, as these seven represent 21% of the legislature.
But this time around, things look different. Confronted with a real push from society as reflected by the legislators returned via universal suffrage, Fernando Chui had to demonstrate some kind of sense, connecting at long last the dots with his 2011 policy address in which he had promised a “sunshine government and scientific policy-making”. Out (or re-allocated) are the cronies, the boisterous vulgar misogynists and pro-business weathercocks posing as academic paragons. In are the experts: three focusing more on business and gaming (two from UMAC, one from MUST) at a time when casino concessions are up for renewal, and two being well-versed in legal intricacies (one from UMAC and a part-timer from City U). Factional politics still indeed play a role — Jiangmen, Fujian and Shandong-backed — and the oddball is not the new engineer, but rather the only one surviving from 2013 and the scion of one of the most distinguished family of Macao. Decadence? Eric Sautedé