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Bill to provide for 2004 LegCo electoral arrangements

Legislative amendments would be made to provide a proper legal basis for the electoral arrangements in respect of the third term Legislative Council elections in 2004.

The main amendments are contained in the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2003 which will be gazetted tomorrow (February 21), a spokesman for the Constitutional Affairs Bureau said.

He said that among others, as prescribed by the Basic Law, the number of geographical constituency (GC) seats to be returned through direct elections would be increased from 24 to 30 in the third term LegCo. There would not be any Members to be returned by the Election Committee.

Under the Bill, there would be five GCs with the number of seats ranging from four to eight. Provisions for other arrangements of the GC elections, for example, the list voting system as in the 2000 elections, would continue to apply.

"This option leaves sufficient room for the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) to decide to keep the demarcation of the existing five GCs intact. Minimising changes to the existing demarcation of GC boundaries is convenient to voters, candidates, political parties and political groups alike," the spokesman said.

On the Functional Constituency (FC) elections, he said that the number and composition of the existing FCs would remain unchanged. However, minor adjustments would be made to certain FCs to reflect latest developments in relevant sectors.

"Such amendments include correcting the names of some corporate electors; updating eligibility criteria due to changes in statutory registration or licensing regime; deleting corporate bodies which have ceased operation; and adding new corporate bodies with a status comparable to that of existing corporate electors," he added.

The spokesman said the Administration did not consider it appropriate to expand the Medical FC to include Chinese medical practitioners in the 2004 LegCo elections after a wide consultation with relevant sectors in the past two months.

"Various representatives of doctors, dentists and Chinese medicine practitioners have, generally speaking, expressed doubt as to whether one single representative of the Medical FC can take care of the interests of the three sides given their differences in background and training as well as different theoretical origins of Western and Chinese medicine," he said.

As regards election expense limits, on which relevant subsidiary legislation will be made, he said that those for the five GCs would be derived on the basis of $1.5 per head of population in a given GC, rounded to the nearest $500,000. For the FC elections, the same four-tier election expense limits in the 2000 FC elections would continue to apply in 2004.

To facilitate development of political parties and political groups and to support independent candidates, a scheme to provide financial support to a list of candidates or a candidate based on the number of votes the list/candidate has received would be introduced to offset part of their election expenses. The free mailing of candidates in the GC and FC elections would be reduced from two rounds to one.

The amount payable to candidates is obtained by multiplying the number of valid votes cast for the list/candidate by a specified rate, i.e. $10. In the case of an uncontested candidate, the number of valid votes is taken to be 50 per cent of the number of registered electors of the constituency.

However, the amount payable is capped by 50 per cent of the declared election expenses of the list/candidate concerned. The amount is also capped by the difference in amount between the declared election expenses and the election donations. No financial assistance will be provided to a list/candidate if the declared election donations exceed the declared election expenses.

"This is to avoid the situation of a candidate benefiting financially from running in the elections," the spokesman said.

The EAC would make a piece of subsidiary legislation to implement the proposal of printing the names and emblems of the candidates' parties or organizations or the candidates' photographs on ballot papers.

The Bill will be tabled in LegCo for first and second reading on February 26.

End/Thursday, February 20, 2003.