Parliament’s electoral law review bill to conclude committee discussions

The parliamentary committee responsible for the discussion of the Legislative Assembly electoral law review bill will submit its list of opinions in the next meeting, signaling the bill’s second reading soon.

The government delivered an edited draft of the bill to the parliament in January.

Yesterday, the committee met with government officials, who explained the alterations made to facilitate the second draft.

Clause 3, Article 13 of the bill originally proposed that should any member of the Electoral Affairs Commission fail to duly conduct their work on the grounds of physical or mental challenges, the Chief Executive will announce replacements in the form of a Dispatch.

It was changed with an additional requirement proposed, which is related to criminal offenses.

The new version suggests that should any member be taken into custody or prosecuted for deliberately committing any crime subject to three years’ imprisonment at maximum, they will not be permitted to take a post at the Commission.

Committee president Chan Chak Mo, who spoke to the press after the meeting, said this aims at making the provision comply with the CE Electoral Law.

Another change fell onto the seven criteria under which the eligibility of future lists of candidates will be scrutinized.

In Item 3, Clause 4, Article 33, a Chinese character meaning “again” or “and” has been deleted.

Chan said this is to make the meaning of the item clearer. In Item 7 of the same Clause, a Chinese character has been added, transforming the sentence from “not accepting […] due to electoral purposes” to “not permitted to accept […] due to.”

No committee member has expressed concerns over these lexical adjustments, Chan said.

He went on to discuss suggestions from committee members. Some members asked the officials if voter registration will be added to the government One Account app. Moreover, some members asked if the deadline for voter registration can be pushed later. Under current requirement, voter registration ends on Dec. 31 preceding the year of election.

In response, the government said voter registration by One Account is technically practical and that it will consider the suggestion. The main concern lies in cybersecurity and not technical practicality, the officials added.

On the matter of extending the registration period, Chan cited the officials as explaining that it may cause difficulties in coordination of the overall electoral procedure. Ceasing registration at the end of the year preceding an election leaves time for the Commission to publish the Electoral Registers.

This step is crucial, according to the officials, because prospective candidates will be able to get an idea who is and who is not a voter. Based on this, the registration deadline will not be adjusted at least for now.

According to Chan, the officials said the adjustment on One Account voter registration will not take place in the next election, which will happen next year. They suggested local residents can register their voting rights at e-kiosks. It was also noted that 17-year-old residents will be eligible for registration but will only be permitted to vote when they reach 18 years of age.

When asked if Macau residents without Chinese nationality will be permitted to run or vote in a parliamentary election, Chan said this has nothing to do with nationality. Provided they are Macau residents, they will be eligible to do so.

As for becoming candidates, Macau residents will also need to fulfil the requirements as proposed in Article 33.

“This is made concerning the election of the Legislative Assembly in Macau, not the National People’s Congress in mainland China,” Chan said, in support of his comment on the nationality matter.

A major change in this Electoral Law review is that the Commission will become a permanent entity.

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