Rear Window | Ho Iat Seng: the natural candidate

Severo Portela

Today it will be too difficult to spot anybody who disbelieves Ho Iat Seng is to succeed Chui Sai On as Macau’s Chief Executive. Local entrepreneur and president of the Legislative Assembly, as well as a political heavyweight beyond MSAR, Ho left behind the role of the “never ever non-candidate”, the reluctant one, to an “assuming almost-candidate” who is seriously considering the idea of becoming the 3rd Chief Executive.

Unequivocally, if not a tough unquestionable conservative, Ho Iat Seng is what, in the local liberal political lingo, is described as a reputable pro-Beijing asset, naturally ascending to the top job in the 20th year of the Macau Special Administrative Region. So much so nobody seems eager to really contest Ho Iat Seng in the small-circle selection system of the Macau Chief Executive. And allow us to underline #real#, thus discarding any dressing or sympathetic candidates.

Given his performance at the helm of an apparent regulatory tightening against the set of liberties granted in the Basic Law, Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak would be a natural bet but he puts himself totally out of consideration. He claims to be reiterating when he says he has never considered running in the next Chief Executive election. Last year, Wong dismissed the possibility at a Fire Service open day; this year during visits to the Border Gate he reiterated his unavailability. To date, this is the status and what counts about the replacement of Chui Sai On as CE.

Everything in this political outlook is pointing to a solo run, albeit the idea may be an uncomfortable one for Ho Iat Seng himself. Ho cared to state that he is not one to be scared of political quarrel, dispute or controversy, as supposedly his tenure at the Legislative Assembly attests, referring to the handling – the disastrous handling – of lawmaker Sulu Sou’s suspension from the Nam Van Lake’s floor. According to Radio Macau broadcast news, putative candidate Ho Iat Seng, not known for proficiency in the English Language, referred to the equivalent of “if you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”! For the time being, the heat is on at the usual kitchen: the Legislative Assembly, as a whole, and the Committee on Rules and Mandates, in particular.

Sulu Sou filed a complaint regarding the alleged secret meetings of the Committee on (House) Rules and Mandates, configuring what he claims to be unlawful behavior of the committee. In January, it held a meeting to discuss the pro-democracy lawmaker resorting to the Cantonese  expression “trash assembly”  …however the opposition submitted by Sulu Sou was aimed at an internal meeting held prior: a so-called preparatory meeting held before the committee was to discuss matters involving Sulu. The thing is…there is no such thing as a preparatory meeting in the Rules of the House.

Again, Ho Iat Seng is now on the departure block, despite the formalities needed to be addressed to allow the candidacy of the current president of the Legislative Assembly, indirectly elected by the economic functional constituency.

How sound will the staple economy of the wealthiest hub be when the next CE takes office? No one knows. GGR was down this January for the first time in two years. Slower Chinese economic growth, a weaker yuan and a trade war threaten growth in the casino hub. At the end of the year, departing Chief Executive Chui Sai On warned residents about difficulties arising from an uncertain and sometimes volatile global economic situation.

Categories Opinion