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Proposals for 2004 LegCo elections

The Government had proposed that for the third term Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2004, there should still be five geographical constituencies (GCs) with four to eight seats in each GC, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, said today (January 15).

Mr Lam said that for the second term LegCo in 2000, the Legislative Council Ordinance (LCO) specified five GCs with four to six seats in each GC.

Under the Basic Law, for the third term LegCo, the number of GC seats to be returned through direct elections would be increased from 24 to 30.

The LCO would need to be amended to increase the number of GC seats to 30 and to specify the number of GCs and the number of seats in each GC for the third term LegCo, he said.

Mr Lam explained that the Government proposed the maximum number of seats in a given GC should be eight. It was because if the current GC boundaries remained unchanged, the smallest GC (Kowloon West) would have about a population of one million while the largest GC (New Territories West) would have a population of about two million by 2004.

The minimum of four seats as compared to the maximum of eight seats per GC would be proportional to the distribution of population, he said.

Mr Lam pointed out that the Government's proposed option had two merits.

He said, "Firstly, the demarcation of constituency boundaries for LegCo elections is conducted by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) in accordance with the law. However, this option leaves sufficient room for the EAC to decide whether the demarcation of the existing five GCs should remain intact or not.

"The current demarcation of the GC boundaries and the GCs' designated names have been in use since the first LegCo elections in 1998. Since then, voters have been well aware of the GCs they belong to and their respective names. "

Mr Lam said, "Candidates, political parties and political groups have been cultivating support on the basis of the current GC boundaries.

"Minimising changes to the existing demarcation of GC boundaries is advantageous and convenient to voters, candidates, political parties and political groups alike," he said.

"Secondly, stable constituency boundaries enable serving LegCo Members and prospective candidates to cultivate amicable and sustainable relationship with voters, " he said.

Mr Lam said that if the Government's proposed option of "five GCs and each GC has four to eight seats" was accepted and the relevant amendment bill for the 2004 LegCo elections was passed, the EAC would consult the public on its recommendations on the demarcation of GC boundaries, and submit its final recommendations to the Chief Executive (CE) on or before September 9, 2003.

Thereafter, the CE in Council would declare areas to be designated as GCs by order published in the gazette. Such order, being a piece of subsidiary legislation, would be subject to negative vetting by LegCo, he said.

Regarding the voting system, Mr Lam said that since voters had already accepted and were accustomed to the list voting system which had been used in the past two LegCo elections, the Government recommended that the same voting system be adopted for the 2004 GC elections.

Mr Lam also disclosed the Government's recommendation on the maximum amount of election expenses which might be incurred in respect of a candidate or a list of candidates running for the 2004 GC elections.

He said, " Assuming that in respect of the number of GCs and the number of seats in each GC recommended by the Government were adopted, we recommend that the election expense limits should be derived on the basis of $1.5 per head of population in a given GC, rounded to the nearest $500,000. The same formula was used in the 2000 LegCo elections."

In respect of the functional constituency (FC) elections for the 2004 LegCo elections, Mr Lam said that the cumulative change in the composite Consumer Price Index since September 2000 had dropped by only 4.7 per cent.

He said that, therefore, the Government considered that there was no need to adjust the current election expense limits.

And, the Government proposed that the same four-tier election expense limits in 2000 FC elections should continue to apply, Mr Lam said.

A four-tier structure of election expense limits entailed that $100,000 for FCs with a relatively small number of voters (Heung Yee Kuk, Agriculture and Fisheries, Insurance and Transport FCs); $160,000 for FCs with not more than 5 000 voters; $320,000 for FCs with 5 001 to 10 000 voters; and $480,000 for FCs with more than 10 000 voters.

End/Wednesday, January 15, 2003.