Editorial | The Manchurian candidate

Paulo Coutinho

The plot of the popular political thriller is well known: simply put, it delves into a conspiracy to install a puppet leader in a state in order to serve an external power. It was staged in the early Cold War years between the USA and the then-USSR.

We are witnessing our own version of the plot in Macau’s shadowy works concerning the installation of the next Chief Executive.

Thus, Ho Iat Seng.

The highest-ranking Macau delegate to the National People’s Congress (NPC) said in a fashion, that he will be running for CE (in 2019): “I won’t deny it.”

The local intelligentsia took it as a nod from Beijing – or at least from the most conservative wing in the higher echelons of the one-party government that rules China when it comes to controlling Macau.

Moreover, Ho ‘announced’ it in Beijing on the sidelines of the 13th NPC session where he was elected for the respective standing committee, which provided an aura of gravitas to the putative candidacy.

In the shadows and silhouettes of power plays, Ho Iat Seng seems for the first time in years prepared (or empowered) to run for the job.

This week, he actually went the extra mile in the theatrics of politics: he spoke unusually vigorously against the visits of secretaries of the local executive to Beijing during the “two sessions” (NPC and CPPCC), considering them “inappropriate,” according to media dispatches from Beijing.

“[The Macau secretaries] ended up visiting ministry and commission officials [in Beijing] merely for the sake of doing so.” They achieved nothing, he said as a ‘reprimand’. (The secretaries that travelled to Beijing were Lionel Leong, Alexis Tam and Wong Sio Chak, precisely the names that are being proffered as possible candidates; more so the first one.)

Hoje Macau newspaper interpreted Ho’s words on a front page this week as “Chiefesque messages.” And rightly so. In politics what matters is what it appears to be.

The question is what is Ho’s mandate from Heaven (if he has one)?

The four years Ho Iat Seng presided over the Legislative Assembly (AL) went practically unnoticed. He was not a commanding voice in the president’s seat and he was never a counterbalance to the executive like others before him. Under him, the AL was a pure rubber-stamp legislature.

When faced with a real political issue (the suspension proposal of elected lawmaker Sulu Sou and the sad episodes that followed at the Nam Van Lakes house), he was involved in, or at least allowed, each of the controversial procedures that led to the unprecedented vote to suspend the young and promising legislator from the AL.

By doing so, Ho Iat Seng showed little respect for the rule of law in a position where he should have been its ultimate guardian.

His ‘mandate’ would be from those in Beijing who dread the autonomy of Macau and the freedoms of the current system, and dream of 2049 coming next year.

Who will he be serving, then?

Categories Editorial Macau