Lobbying for blank votes may be penalized in future elections

Lobbying for or encouraging voters to cast blank or invalid ballots should be penalized in the future, the Electoral Affairs Commission (CAEAL) recently suggested in the wake of the last parliamentary election.

The commission has just released its concluding report on last election, held in September 2021, and made some suggestions.

Last election saw the city’s lowest voting turnout since 1999 and the most blank ballots in history. The 2021 election had a 42.38% turnout rate, as well as 3,141 blank ballots and 2,067 invalid ballots, accounting for 2.29% and 1.51% of all ballots cast.

In contrast, the 2017 election garnered a 57.22% turnout rate, with both blank and invalid ballots accounting for less than 1% of all ballots.

The CAEAL identified the weather as the culprit of this state of affairs.

It also saw the first electoral disqualifications in history. A total of 20 candidates were expelled from the election due to the Electoral Affairs Committee deeming them “unpatriotic.”

Despite this, the concluding report of the CAEAL did not review the reason why voters lost interest in voting; rather, it recommended punishing those who suggested that people cast blank or invalid ballots in the future.

The CAEAL sees the act of lobbying for or encouraging the casting of blank or invalid ballots as “obviously initiated to disturb electoral procedures and damage the fairness of the election.”

On the other hand, in order to guarantee all candidates are “patriotic” in the future, it is suggested in the report that a vetting committee be established in the future to “verify whether candidates uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Macau Special Administrative Region.”

More power is also recommended for the Judiciary Police (PJ) to identify illicit promotions.

The CAEAL suggested that the PJ cannot currently help much in cracking down on illicit promotions during election periods due to its lack of authorization. It added that illicit promotion on online platforms had become more frequent in the past few elections.

As such, the commission recommends vesting the PJ with the legal power to identify and investigate online illicit promotions.

On the participation of civil servants, the CAEAL suggests a clarification in the Election Law that those civil servants required by law to be politically impartial should not participate in any form in an election. Violators should also be subject to punishments.

Discrepancies in the Election Law between the Chinese and the Portuguese versions are also addressed in the report.

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