|SCA proposes financial support for development of political parties
The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, proposed today (December 10) that the Government should provide partial financial support to candidates of Legislative Council (LegCo) elections in accordance with the number of votes they have received, starting from the 2004 (the third term) LegCo elections.
He also suggested the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) revisit the proposal of printing the names and emblems of candidates' parties or organisations or the candidates' photographs on ballot papers to help voters recognise candidates and their parties or organisations.
As a result of these measures, more public-spirited candidates would be encouraged to stand in the LegCo elections. This would also facilitate the development of local political parties and political groups, he noted.
The above two are among the series of recommendations Mr Lam put forward today in respect of the 2004 LegCo elections. Other recommendations are related to functional constituencies (FC) elections.
Mr Lam said there were suggestions earlier that the feasibility of introducing a political party law should be examined and that the Government should give consideration to this matter.
He understood that political parties and political groups mainly wished to obtain statutory recognition and financial support.
After careful consideration, he decided that now was not the time to introduce a political party law.
Mr Lam said sufficient room should be provided for political parties to develop freely. This would in turn facilitate the development of political parties in Hong Kong. Imposing additional statutory controls on the operation of political parties might in fact hinder their development, he added.
To facilitate the development of local political parties and political groups and to encourage independent candidates to stand for election, the Government proposed to provide partial financial support to candidates starting from the 2004 LegCo elections.
Regarding the details of the proposal, Mr Lam said in respect of GC and FC elections, the candidates who got elected or had received 5 % of valid votes or more would be given financial support. The rate would be set at $10 per vote but capped at 50% of the actual declared election expenses of the candidate concerned.
Apart from financial support, every candidate would be entitled to one round of free mailing for communication with his electorate. Political parties, political groups and independent candidates would be eligible for the same type of support.
Mr Lam believed that such financial support could better meet the needs of the candidates than the current arrangements of providing them with two rounds of free mailing. Also, candidates would continue to be entitled to free TV and radio air time on RTHK to promote their election platforms.
Mr Lam said that the EAC would be asked to revisit the proposal of printing the names and emblems of candidates' parties or organisations or the candidates' photographs on the ballot papers. He believed that in the long run, this would help political parties or organisations and independent candidates build up their images.
To encourage more candidates to stand in the elections, Mr Lam also proposed to lower the threshold for the return of election deposit from the existing 5% to 3%.
Furthermore, Mr Lam said the Government was conducting an examination on the number of constituencies and the number of Members to be returned by each constituency for the geographical constituencies (GC) elections. Upon completion of the study, he would announce the Government's recommendations as soon as possible.
The Government needs to amend the Legislative Council Ordinance and other electoral laws in order to implement the above proposals and others in relation to the GC elections, and plans to introduce the relevant amendment bill into the LegCo in the first season of 2003, Mr Lam added.
End/Tuesday, December 10, 2002.