Editorial | Chief puzzle

Paulo Coutinho

Heavyweight politician Edmund Ho made a rare and strong public appearance last week in a checks and balances convenium of Macau representatives’ work at the “two sessions” of Beijing’s legislative (NPC) and consultative (CPPCC) bodies to lay out his profile of the ideal candidate to replace Chui Sai On at the top post.

The former Chief Executive (CE) said the next leader should be someone with solid leadership skills and ability to make “important decisions,” all the while promoting “unity over disunion” and care for solidarity and stability in society. Translating this into local political lingo, he wants consensus – a mantra that has deep roots in the sociological history of this place.

Another highlighted yet arguable message is that he stands convinced that “Macau [people?] is wise enough” to choose the best person for the position.

Being a long-time observer of Macau affairs, the wise people that Ho was referring to are indeed the so-called “influential forces” of Macau; the elites or, to be precise, the oligarchs and tycoons that have been running the city for decades.

So, what about them? Are they united as they were in the previous elections of the CE? The answer is no.

There is a clear divide among the elites and it seems that a turf war is ongoing.

In order to have a grasp on who’s winning or losing this “war,” we have to look at the election of the next CE as we look at a puzzle. Putting together the facts available publicly in order to get the big picture – or at least some sort of a picture.

For this exercise, we will only take into consideration those who made themselves available to contend for the top post in public statements. That is, by alphabetical order, Ho Iat Seng, Lionel Leong and Alexis Tam.

First piece of the puzzle: who best fits the profile described by the former CE? That is really up to interpretation. However, in my opinion, the profiling eliminates from contention Ho Iat Seng.

The President of the Legislative Assembly (AL) has not shown during his tenure at the AL any particular leadership ability. Under Ho, the AL was a rubber-stamp legislature. Add to that, the fact that he (and his aligned peers) lost their push last year to evict pro-democracy lawmaker Sulu Sou from the AL after losing a fierce legal battle. Add to that, the shameful dismissal of two veteran jurists (Paulo Cardinal and Paulo Taipa) without plausible cause – in what was widely deemed as a political sacking. If that is someone willing to promote harmony or stability, you tell me.

Lionel Leong was long seen in the public eye as a protégé of Edmund Ho and has been the name “written in the stars” to take the scepter from his mentor. Then, he was the chosen one to take over the most critical portfolio in the cabinet when Chui promoted a total revamp of the government four years ago. Leong was lucky enough to oversee the turnaround in falling casino receipts. Circumstances helped, no doubt, but the fact of the matter is that he was there when it happened. Another factor is that he stands out as an outsider from the “small circle,” and he earned a reputation in typhoon Hato’s aftermath being the first government member to go to the field and side with the community at a time of chaos and sorrow.

Alexis Tam comes out somehow of the same breed. His populist agenda and charisma also connects him with the community. But he will always be remembered for his inaugural speech as secretary: “I will resign if I do not fulfill my promises.” Did he deliver? Did he resign?

What stands in the end are Edmund Ho’s puzzling words which demonstrate that there is a clear divide in this “small circus” politics. The consensus elixir is yet to be prepared.

Categories Editorial Macau Opinion