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SCMA speaks on proposal to increase CE election expenses limit

     Following is the transcript of remarks (English portion) made by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at a media session at the Central Government Offices this afternoon (April 12) to introduce the proposal to increase the election expenses limit for the Chief Executive election:

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: After the passage of the two Bills in early March concerning the Chief Executive (CE) and the Legislative Council (LegCo) elections in 2012, we have today sent a set of proposals to the LegCo Constitutional Affairs Panel, and this includes several aspects.

     Firstly, we are proposing that the election expenses limit for the CE election in 2012 should be increased from $9.5 million to $13 million.

     There are various factors which we have taken into account. Firstly, the current limit was set in 2001 and since then we have experienced 12.8% inflation. Secondly, there will be a 50% increase in the number of Election Committee (EC) members from the current 800 to 1,200 for the March 2012 election. Thirdly, we expect that the candidates who stand for the CE election will wish to put forth their election manifestos to all seven million people of Hong Kong, and there is a provision for a summary of their manifestos to be sent by post to over two million households in Hong Kong. Fourthly, we have made a new provision in the Chief Executive Election Ordinance to require the successful candidate to attain support of at least 601 EC members. We therefore expect that intending candidates who are to stand for the election next year will need to do even more canvassing activities among 38 sectors of the EC to gain such support. Therefore, we have put forth this proposed increase in the level of election expenses limit. However, it is of course entirely up to the candidates who take part in next year's election as to how much election expenses he or she will wish to incur.

     Secondly, we are also proposing that the rate of financial assistance for District Council (DC) election taking place in November this year should be increased from $10 per vote to $12 per vote, and the limit of the financial assistance will also be increased to 50% of the election expenses limit. We are proposing that the election expenses limit for this should be increased from $48,000 to $53,800. Therefore, the candidate who wishes to attain this maximum amount of financial assistance will need to achieve over 2,000 votes in the DC constituency election.

     Finally, we are also allowing a degree of flexibility in the round of free mailing which the Government will provide to candidates taking part in elections in future. We are proposing that for the LegCo election in September 2012, candidates who stand in geographical constituency elections and candidates who stand in the DC territory-wide election should both be able to have their publicity materials printed on the same pamphlet and sent through this round of free mailing to the people of Hong Kong.

Reporter: Secretary, can you please clarify what the situation is for the people who are going to be running territory-wide because it seems that they will have a very large expenses burden to reach every person in Hong Kong eligible to vote?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Actually we have already made a provision to set an election expenses limit for the DC territory-wide election, and that will be $6 million per list of candidates.

Reporter: You mentioned in your opening remarks that you have listened to prospective candidates before laying out this proposal to revise the pamphlet regulations for the DC election. So, did you also consult anybody before laying out this proposal for the CE election expenses? And if yes, who did you consult? If not, will you consult any prospective candidate in the CE election?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: No, I have not consulted any prospective candidates for the CE election on the proposed election expenses limit. As for the LegCo election and DC election, I have also not consulted any prospective candidates specifically. But in the course of discussions in the LegCo concerning the 2012 electoral legislation, various political parties have put forth the view that we should allow this round of free mailing which the Administration currently provides to encompass both geographical constituency elections and the DC territory-wide LegCo election. This will enable political parties who sponsor lists of candidates in both types of elections to have a degree of economy of scale in the pamphlets which they publish and which they send to prospective voters. That is the sum total of what I have just explained.

Reporter: Some clarification of your previous answer -- was the $6 million figure set before or after you have revised the inflation figure?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The $6 million figure was set in the course of the enactment of the Legislative Council (Amendment) Ordinance 2011 in March this year, and this has been subjected to very thorough discussions of the LegCo.

Reporter: My question is does that $6 million figure take into account the revised inflation rate? If not, why not?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The $6 million figure has been set very recently. We do not expect this to change much in the course of next year or so. Unless inflation shoots up very rapidly in the next 12 months or so, otherwise I would expect the LegCo's current election expenses limit and including this $6 million figure to stay as it is.

Reporter: Under the EC subsector elections, is there an average election expenses per candidate, given the fact that there were 15 uncontested constituencies in those subsectors?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: We have examined those subsectors which had elections, and even for those subsectors which had elections taking place, the amount of election expenses limit incurred was very low.

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

Ends/Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Expenses limit raised for Chief Executive election