The other 2012 election

What with GOP fears of a Sarah Palin vs Obama presidential race in two years, the prospect of Tea Partiers getting into DC in today’s mid-term elections, the US/Japan/probably India/everyone else lining up to base ships at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay as part of the evil global mega-plot to keep China down, the launch of yet another amazing new search engine we’ll try once and forget, and all the other excitements of early November 2010, it’s easy to ignore the minor tweaks that the Hong Kong government has announced to the election system for 2012. But duty calls.

One of the most surprising events on the Big Lychee’s political scene this year came in late June when members of the Democratic Party convinced Beijing to make a concession and agree to an electoral reform that had previously been ruled out by Hong Kong and Chinese officials. The momentousness of the symbolism here – the Communist Party giving in to unpatriotic and hostile elements whose existence it previously refused to acknowledge – went over most people’s heads as our local politicians immediately started bickering about the rights and wrongs of negotiating with tyrannical regimes and, especially, what the deal would mean in practice. To largely widespread yawns, the government released the details over the weekend.

The ‘method of selecting the Chief Executive’, as it is quaintly known, remains the same as before. Beijing decides who will replace Donald Tsang; the Election Committee, a small group of mainly obedient Hongkongers, conducts an embarrassing make-believe election locally that affirms the choice; the Central Government then makes a big show of accepting this result and officially appointing the guy. The Election Committee will rise in number in 2012 from 800 to 1,200 – to no effect whatsoever.

The other part of the reform is the expansion of the Legislative Council while maintaining the existing 50-50 balance between popularly elected geographical constituencies and essentially rigged functional ones. The five new geographical seats will be crammed into the existing five constituencies, meaning that such districts will return as many as nine members. This will make it even easier for wacko/misfit/Long-Hair-type candidates to win a seat with less than, say, 10% of the vote. Presumably, the idea of redistricting was too much like hard work for weasel-like Constitutional Affairs Secretary Stephen Lam.

As with the Election Committee, Beijing’s original plan was to match that with five new, mostly-rigged functional seats to avoid any shift in the power balance. The idea, already rejected once by pro-democracy lawmakers before the 2008 polls, was to let District Council members – padded out by pro-Beijing appointees – elect the new, mostly loyalist, legislators. The Democrats’ achievement, other than simply being let in the door, was to convince the Rulers of All Under Heaven to restrict nomination to directly elected Councilors and let the general electorate vote for the five new members.

Needless to say, Beijing would not have agreed to this if it led to a meaningful shift in the balance of power, but it has the potential effect of a slight one that could theoretically alter the outcome of a vote in marginal cases. So Stephen Lam’s main priority has been to find a way – the lamer and thus more contemptuous of public intelligence, the better – to rig the system. He has done this by requiring a proportional representation list system like that used in geographical votes, backed by a fairly high nomination threshold for candidates. With only five city-wide, at-large seats up for grabs, this stacks the odds in favour of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, with its CCP, United Front campaign money and machine. The pro-democrats, with far broader public appeal, could match the DAB’s efforts if they worked together, which of course they won’t. Much whining has resulted.

For some reason – maybe something in the tea – several serving legislators like Regina Ip got it into their heads that they should get a District Council seat, get nominated, and run for one of the five new city-wide seats. What this would gain them, other than being dubbed ‘super-lawmakers’ by the press, is unclear. They now seem to be changing their minds, as are several non-legislators who were thinking of doing the same. These are mainly pro-government people from business, which suggests that Beijing has prodded Lam into tilting the system purely for the trusty, patriotic DAB’s benefit, and keeping vaguely friendly ex-civil servants and tycoons frozen out. (The GOP establishment petrified of Palin must be jealous.)  The Liberals are particular losers; even the Democratic Party could get a couple of the new seats unless it screws everything up. They have nearly two years to work on that.

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13 Responses to The other 2012 election

  1. DeservingResident says:

    It’s almost as if our dear government is actively trying to ruin this place. Plan A: do sweet FA of substance, acting only in self-interest and on the most inane and/or tokenistic policy initiatives, until there is some kind of ruckus. Plan B: scheme and machinate and even work rather hard for short periods of time to avoid recognising or (heaven forbid) acting on the merits of reasonable suggestions proffered. Thank you, mini-rant over.

  2. Vile Traveller says:

    Pared down to basics, there are only two purposes underlying the existence of any government:

    1. Increase your budget.
    2. Increase your size.

    Given this, Donald & Co. are remarkably effective in fulfilling their mandate.

  3. Xenophobe says:

    DeservingResident. What about 150 unskilled mainlanders let into HK every day ? It IS as if our dear government is actively trying to ruin this place.

  4. Big Al says:

    Can someone explain why we let in 150 unskilled mainlanders into Hong Kong every day? Surely, this only serves to decrease the overall skill level of the Hong Kong population? Of course, the official reason is for family reunions – so that families desperate to be together again can be. And nothing to do with mainland riff raff getting the social security benefits paid for by Hong Kong taxpayers. So, my question is this: Why don’t all those Hong Kong-based family members so desperate to be reunited with their Chinese kin just sod off to China and reunite there? Assuming that a large proportion of the unskilled mainlanders have similarly unskilled relatives in Hong, their departure to the mainland would serve to increase the overall skill level of the Hong Kong population. Or am I missing something (other than compassion)?

  5. Jack Russell says:

    I try to avoid posting anonymous personal insults on the Internet, but Stephen Lam really is an odious little cretin, isn’t he?

  6. Kowloon Tongue says:

    There has to be something resignworthyenough that can be pinned on Stephen Lam. He really is the toadiest of toads.

    I’d be more than happy to chip in for a set up job involving a super-sized Nigerian male-to-female trans-sexual hooker who is up for a filmed ten-minute lemon-squeezing stint in one of those dimly-lit side-roads close to Government House.

  7. Maugrim says:

    Big Al, sure the 150 per day grates, and believe me, nothing grates locals more than the thought of Mainland immigrants receiving welfare. However, my understanding is that it’s a token effort. neither our Government nor the Central Government feel that it would be in the interest of either place, despite one country yada yada, to have a massive inflow of immigrants, which is what would happen if the gates were opened. At one stage, it was easier to get a visa for a western employee to enter HK than it was for a Mainlander. The 150 per day is smoke and mirrors, be grateful.

  8. Jack Russell says:

    150 x 365 equals 54,750 a year. That’s enough to fill HK Stadium, HK Coliseum and a few Star Ferries.

  9. Mike Hunt says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here, or maybe not: those unskilled immigrants work for really low wages and thus keep wage levels down, which is a good thing if you are not earning a minimum wage level.

    I remember the double-digit inflation years…..*eyes glazing over*

  10. Revolution says:

    I assume that the reason that re-districting isn’t on the agenda is that if you create smaller seats the party who gets the most votes in each seat is likely to take a greater percentage of the seats overall. This could mean (if they got themselves organised or the electorate was in a government bashing mood) that the Democrats and their allies could win enough seats to lose the Government its veto in Legco, and that of course cannot be allowed to happen.

    The Anson Chan-Regina Ip showdown result is evidence that pro-Government candidates are unlikely to win a straight fight, and that the bigger the constituency, the better for the likes of the DAB.

  11. Maugrim says:

    Correct, then you get the possibility that candidates such as ‘agony aunt’ Pamela Pak get elected.

  12. Mike Hunt says:

    Does anyone believe that Paul Tse and Pamela Pak are married in the biblical sense ?

  13. cecilie says:

    An aside: “Lam” means “Lame” in Norwegian, a language more or less identical to Cantonese. Coincidence???

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