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SCMA speaks to the media after attending radio programmes

     The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, attended radio programmes this morning (May 18) to speak on the proposal on the arrangements for filling vacancies in the Legislative Council. The following is the transcript of Mr Lam's remarks in response to media questions afterwards:

Reporter: If a legislator resigns, and if the next-best candidate also declines to take up the post, then the next-next-best candidate has to take up the post. In that case, do you think it is still a good representation of the voters?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: According to the electoral results of the Legislative Council elections in September 2008, the potential replacement candidates who had the largest remainder of votes had substantial public support. If you look at the five geographical constituency districts, the top largest remainder vote candidates all carried between over 10,000 to 20,000 votes per list. So we believe that this replacement mechanism will be able to reflect overall voters' views and we believe that this will be able to have a representative replacement for the Legislative Councillors who have resigned.

Reporter: Will it be better to find a replacement candidate from someone who is from the same list of the legislator who resigns?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: We have actually looked into this. There are a few drawbacks if you use the same list of candidates to replace Legislative Councillors who have resigned.

     First and foremost, according to our electoral experience, for the lists of candidates who had Legislative Councillors elected, most of them would not have any remaining votes to support the second or the third candidate on the list.

     Also, if we pursue this route, then there is a problem of what you call "automatic succession" on the same candidate list. Hypothetically, it will be possible for a serving Legislative Councillor who actually does not wish to serve for another term, but because he or she wants to bring into the political arena new, younger candidates, he or she will stand for another term, and after serving for a while, resign and bequeath the position of Legislative Councillor to a successor on the same list. This will be an erosion of the open and fair electoral system that we cherish in Hong Kong.

Reporter: Although you said there was a low turnout rate at the "referendum" by-election last year, there were still 500,000 people who voted. Are you introducing this system to take away their right to vote?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Whether it is over 500 000 voters who took part in the by-election last year, or the 2.7 million people who did not take part last year, all 3.43 million voters can take part in the 2012 Legislative Council election in September next year. We believe that it will be possible for over 3 million voters to make their choice of the candidates they wish to support for serving immediately as Legislative Councillors in the fifth term Legislative Council or to pre-select certain potential replacements for Legislative Councillors who resign. This would be an expression of the popular will of voters and we believe that this would be a legitimate system.

Reporter: Are there any examples of countries who are using exactly the same system that you are proposing right now?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: There are systems of proportional representation election in countries such as Finland, Germany and Poland. They use a list system to replace members who have resigned. But the replacement will come from the same list of the political parties concerned. In Canberra and Tasmania in Australia, they have a single transferable vote system whereby voters will list the candidates they wish to support, say from one to five or six. And if the top one has resigned, then the votes will be redistributed according to the single transferable vote system. In the case of Hong Kong, we have weighed up the pros and cons of various options. We believed that the largest remainder vote replacement mechanism that we are proposing now would enable the overall will of Legislative Council voters to be expressed during the general election and to pre-select certain potential replacements.

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

Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2011