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Local legislation on electoral arrangements for upcoming elections

     The Government announced today (April 27) that the Electoral Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2011 would be introduced into the Legislative Council (LegCo) on May 4, 2011.

     "The Bill amends various pieces of legislation to introduce changes to electoral and related arrangements for returning the Chief Executive (CE) and the Village Representatives (VR) and the formation of LegCo and the District Councils (DC); to make technical adjustments as regards election expenses; and to make related and incidental amendments," a government spokesman said.

     The Bill proposes to amend the appeal mechanism in relation to an election petition arising from the LegCo, DC and VR elections in order to introduce a leap-frog mechanism similar to the one contained in the Chief Executive Election Ordinance. Under the leap-frog appeal mechanism, an appeal against the decision of the Court of First Instance in relation to an election petition arising from a LegCo, DC and VR election (including a by-election) may be lodged to the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) directly, subject to leave being granted by the Appeal Committee of the CFA.

     Regarding promotional letters sent by candidates free of postage to electors, the existing legislation specifies that the letters must contain materials relating only to the candidature of the candidate at the election concerned.

     Some LegCo members have proposed that candidates of different constituencies should be allowed to print their campaign materials in the same promotional letter to be sent free of postage. This would enable political parties to enhance the campaign publicity for their candidates at the same election and save paper. Having regard to their views, the Government proposes that candidates may send promotional letters to the same elector/voter under the following three situations:

(a) a list of candidates in a geographical constituency and a list of candidates in the DC (second) functional constituency (FC);

(b) candidates in the Labour FC which has three seats; and

(c) candidates standing for election in the same Election Committee (EC) subsector which has multiple number of seats.

     For the CE election, the Bill proposes to increase the election expenses limit from $9.5 million (which has been applicable since 2001) to $13 million. The increase has taken into account the cumulative inflation rate of 12.8 per cent from 2000 to 2012; the impact on the mode of canvassing as a result of the expansion of the EC and the revised voting system of the CE election; and the need for additional expense items in light of the experience in the previous CE elections.

     For the DC election, the Bill proposes that the subsidy rate for the financial assistance scheme for candidates will be revised from the lower of $10 per vote or 50 per cent of the declared election expenses to the lower of $12 per vote or 50 per cent of the election expenses limit provided that the subsidy amount does not exceed the amount of the declared election expenses of the candidates. The revised financial assistance scheme for the 2011 DC election will tally with that for the 2012 LegCo election.

     The Bill also proposes to increase the election expenses limit of the DC election from $48,000 to $53,800. The amendment has taken into consideration the cumulative inflation rate of 12 per cent from 2008 to 2011.

     "We plan to introduce the Bill into LegCo for the first and second reading on May 4, 2011. We hope that LegCo can pass the Bill as soon as possible so that the revised electoral arrangements can be implemented starting with the 2011 DC election in November," the spokesman said.

     The Bill and details of the proposals will be available at LegCo's webpage.

Ends/Wednesday, April 27, 2011