In a two-round election, you follow your heart in the first round and trust your brain in the second. In Macao, we only have one round, so both heart and brain have to be mobilised together. More so because this unique shot at excessively limited democracy happens within a very unfair system.
Unfair because only 14 seats out of 33 are returned via universal suffrage. That is a mere 42.4% of the legislature elected via some kind of competitive suffrage whereas the Macao Basic Law clearly states that “the majority of its members shall be elected”. Contempt for the ultimate law of the land is thus added to injustice!
To be clear, the so-called 12 “indirectly-elected” legislators do not deserve the label of “elected”, unless exactly matching the number of candidates with the number of seats somehow fits the notion of competition.
Has there been any progress since the handover? Yes indeed, at the pace of what Macao government considers acceptable: we had 10 elected legislators out of 27 in 2001 (37%), growing to 12 out 29 in 2005 (41.4%) as specified in the Basic Law, and then in 2012, the government took it upon itself to add 2 directly elected seats and 2 indirectly elected seats for the 2013 elections… at the time it was deemed a “successful progress in constitutional development” — an extra 1% for the representation of the population at large!
Unfair because of the voting system. The so-called “modified d’Hondt” mechanism, a subcategory of Party-list proportional representation, is designed to break down the totality of seats into tiny pieces. The original design was fine as far as representativeness was concerned — although it applied to only a fraction of the Assembly — but Macao introduced its own modification for the pre-handover 1992 elections: the quotient ascribed to calculate the allocation of successive seats after the first one was significantly inflated, thus making it quasi-impossible to elect four members on any single list. Obviously, the then president of the Assembly, Carlos d’Assumpção, had not taken lightly that another list, connected to the independent Chinese-backed “livelihood faction” led by Alexandre Ho Si Him, had received the most votes and managed to lodge three legislators in the 1988 chamber. 1992 then saw the first victory of Ng Kuok Cheong, on a democratic agenda, as well as the first election of Fernando Chui Sai On, on a list, strangely enough, representing the Macao Federation of Trade Unions. Since then, the number of lists in competition has soared, and split lists can even be said to be a 2017 “new normal”!
Finally, it is unfair because of the rigidity of the electoral law regarding campaigning — even more so since the December 2016 amendments — and the unbalanced witch-hunt conducted by the Electoral Affairs Commission (CAEAL). Posting a unique electoral flag outside a dedicated campaigning site is liable to prosecution. But patriotic schools instructing parents on which candidate to choose is of no concern to the Commission. The same goes for the sixty “non-
electoral activities involving the distribution of benefits” as detailed by Jornal Tribuna de Macau earlier this week, connected to prominent traditional associations and the lists conducted by Mak Soi Kun, Si Ka Lon, Song Pek Kei, Ho Ion Sang, Wong Kit Cheng, Angela Leong and Melinda Chan. Further, even the CAEAL and the CCAC are for now turning a blind eye on “non-
electoral activities intended to confer benefits in which candidates are involved” (!): no less than 62 events for Wong Kit Cheng & co, 24 for Si Ka Lon & co., and an identical 13 events for Angela Leong & co. and Mak Soi Kun & co.
Not so long ago, members of such a traditional and communal association were condemned in first and second instances to prison terms and ineligibility for vote buying despite having denounced selective law enforcement and even political persecution. The times they are a-changin’!