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SCMA speaks to the media at Central Counting Station

Following is the transcript of the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam's remarks on the 2008 Legislative Council Election and his response to a media question at the central counting station at the Hongkong International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kowloon Bay this morning (September 8):

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The 2008 Legislative Council Election has a turnout rate of 45 per cent and an actual voter turnout of 1.52 million. The turnout rate is slightly higher than that of 43 per cent in 2000 and also higher than the actual voter turnout of 1.33 million in 2000. This has been made possible through efforts made by the Government in the last few years in attracting more registered voters so that we have a registered voter population of 3.37 million. It has also been made possible through encouragement on the part of the Government to make political parties and independent candidates more enthusiastic in joining the elections. That is why this year we have over 200 candidates taking part and over 50 lists in geographical direct elections.

We have taken various measures. For example, we introduced a scheme of financial assistance for candidates in 2004. It started with $10 per vote. Up till now, we have increased the rate to $11 per vote for 2008. On the basis of the work which we have done, and on that foundation, it has been made possible for more candidates to take part this year. And from that moment onwards, it is really for individual political parties and for the candidates concerned to put forth their election manifestos and to convince individual voters that these candidates and parties are worthy of their support. I believe that in overall term, the turnout rate of 45 per cent and the actual voter participation of 1.52 million is acceptable and would provide an adequate basis for us to roll forward Hong Kong's democratic development in future.

Reporter: What are the reasons for the lower turnout this time round?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I would say that having done all the work which we have done in the last few years -- to broaden the population of registered voters, to encourage political parties and individual candidates to come out and stand for election, to offer them financial assistance, from that point onwards, it is really for individual political parties and candidates to come up with election manifestos which they believe will be sufficiently attractive to individual voters to make them enthusiastic and interested to come out to vote. In the final analysis, it is up to individual voters to decide whether and if so, how they should take part in today's elections. But what we have achieved today is that the election for the fourth-term Legislative Council in 2008 has abided by our principle of fair and open elections.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, September 8, 2008