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Arrangements for filling vacancies in the Legislative Council

     The Government today (May 17) announced the proposal regarding arrangements for filling a vacancy arising from the resignation of Legislative Council (LegCo) Members or other reasons.

     A Government spokesman said, "A vacancy arising mid-term in the geographical constituencies (GCs) or the newly established District Council (second) functional constituency (DC (second) FC) seats will be filled by reference to the election result of the preceding general election. The first candidate who has not yet been elected in the list with the largest number of remainder votes in the preceding general election will be returned. These constituencies adopt the proportional representation list voting system. The proposed replacement mechanism is consistent with the proportional representation electoral system and reflects the overall will of the electors expressed through the general election."

     In the event that the list of the resigned Member still maintains the largest number of remainder votes after discounting the quota of votes required for returning the Member(s), the first candidate who has not been elected on that list will fill the vacancy.

     If the candidate concerned has died, or is now disqualified or does not wish to serve, the first unelected candidate on the list with the second largest number of remainder votes will fill the vacancy and so on.

     The replacement arrangement will apply to situations (including resignation, death, disqualification of Members, etc) specified under section 15 of the Legislative Council Ordinance (LCO) and Article 79 of the Basic Law under which a vacancy of the LegCo arises. This ensures that the same arrangements will apply to the filling of vacancies arising in different circumstances.

     The replacement arrangement does not apply to traditional FCs. A vacancy arising mid-term in the FCs (other than the DC (second) FC) will be filled by a by-election.

     The Government spokesman added, "The proposed replacement arrangement will be implemented commencing from the fifth term of the LegCo on October 1, 2012 after the Legislative Council Ordinance is amended."

     In 2010, five LegCo Members resigned, leading to a by-election. It was considered by members of the public and some political parties as an unnecessary and significant drain on public resources totalling $126 million. The resources could have been deployed for other more productive purposes. There are also views that there should be a mechanism to facilitate the speedy replacement of any vacant LegCo seat in order to maintain the integrity and operation of the LegCo. In light of the above, the Administration has conducted a review on the subject with a view to identifying another arrangement (other than holding a by-election) which could return a candidate to take up the vacant seat.

     According to our understanding, in some countries where the proportional representation list voting system is practised, by-elections are not used to return candidates to fill vacant seats arising mid-term. Instead, reference to the election result of the preceding general election will form the basis of returning a candidate to fill a vacancy.

     The Government considers that the proposed replacement arrangement suits Hong Kong and that it will be consistent with the proportional representation electoral system. The following considerations are pertinent:

(a) electors in Hong Kong vote according to the political parties or groups which they wish to support. At the same time, they also cast their votes on the basis of the lists which have candidates who are more well known. Hence, the number of votes obtained by a list of candidates to a significant extent hinges on the presence of individual well-known candidates. Thus, once a candidate has resigned, it is reasonable to assume that in the absence of that candidate, his list may not receive the same level of support. One cannot assume that the votes used by the resigned Member could again be accorded to the list he belonged to;

(b) furthermore, from the perspective of the electoral system, once an incumbent LegCo Member resigns, his votes should go with him as he has already used the quota of the votes to take up his seat; and

(c) the political party system in Hong Kong is still evolving. In fact, political party politics in Hong Kong have not yet evolved to an extent whereby in the general election, voters can choose between two or three major political parties.

     The Government spokesman added, "We plan to amend the relevant provisions under the LCO in order to implement the replacement arrangement for filling vacancies arising from the GCs or DC (second) FC as soon as possible and will brief LegCo Members on the proposal accordingly."

Ends/Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SCMA speaks on arrangements for filling vacancies in the Legislative Council