Press Releases

SCA: High turnout rate a milestone in HK's constitutional and democratic development

The following is the transcript (English portion) of a standup briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at the Legislative Council Election Press Centre at the HK International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kowloon Bay at 1.15am today (September 13):

SCA: The overall participation rate, the voter turnout rate today, is that approximately 1.7 million voters came out to vote and the overall turnout rate is approximately 53 per cent. This turnout rate exceeds that of 2000 which was 43.5 per cent. In terms of actual voter participation, over 200,000 more people voted in today's election compared to that in 1998. The fact that there are so many Hong Kong citizens participating in the Legislative Council election is a positive development. It enhances the representativeness of our third term Legislative Council. And it is conducive to the progressive development of Hong Kong's democracy. The HKSAR Government much looks forward to working closely with all 60 newly elected Legislative Councillors to serve the people of Hong Kong.

As for the voter turnout rate in the Functional Constituencies, the overall turnout rate is approximately 63 per cent. This exceeds that of 2000 which was 56 per cent and it is more or less on a par with that in 1998 i.e. 63.5 per cent.

Today, much public attention has focused around the question of ballot boxes. Earlier on, the Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission has already explained that there are inadequacies in today's arrangements and that the Electoral Affairs Commission, and the Registration and Electoral Office will undertake a review of current arrangements.

Actually some weeks ago, when I reviewed with the colleagues of the Registration and Electoral Office, the arrangements for the third term Legislative Council election, I established that they intended to make preparations for about 80 per cent turnout rate. But I proposed, and they accepted, that they should make 100 per cent preparations. And therefore eventually they printed 110 per cent of ballots, and make provision for 100 per cent of ballot boxes.

Nonetheless, the actual arrangements made today are still inadequate. I believe that we should extend to individual voters who have been inconvenienced our apologies.
In overall terms, I would make three observations about today's election. First of all, we have had a very high participation rate both in terms of candidates standing for the election and in terms of voters turning out.

Secondly, on this particular occasion in this particular election, we have witnessed certain candidates migrating from Functional Constituencies to Geographical Constituencies Election. This is positive.

Thirdly, we have also seen that in this particular election, as I suppose in all elections, new candidates, new stars, new political groupings can always appear. Both old people, new candidates have to vie for support within the rules and the parameters of our electoral system.

Reporter: How many polling stations were affected? What is your understanding of the most extreme cases? How long did people have to wait, and had the long queues turned people away?

SCA: At the moment, the Registration and Electoral Office is still awaiting detailed reports from all 501 polling stations as to the operation throughout the day. I think once they have had detailed reports from all the presiding officers, they will give a more detailed account to the media and to the public. But on the whole, the next mission is in the next few hours to count all the votes cast and to let the public know what are the results of today's election.

Reporter: Seeing voters queuing up outside polling stations not being able to get in, and ballot boxes being completely full by 3pm, are they even not scenes that people in the international community would expect to see in Hong Kong in 2004? What kind of message do you think that we are giving to the international community in terms of the Hong Kong Government's preparedness in carrying out election?

SCA: In terms of arrangements for today's election, we have made the best possible arrangements. I hope that all voters who intended to vote have had the opportunity, and I can see that the presiding officers and the returning officers in different polling stations, in different districts, have made their best possible arrangements to facilitate this process on the part of voters who are interested to participate. As for Hong Kong's international image, I think today's election, despite the practicalities and inadequacies which we experienced, on the whole has demonstrated that Hong Kong people are very keen to participate in Hong Kong's election, has demonstrated that we can develop our democratic system step by step. It also demonstrated that whether the candidates come from the business sector, professional sector, other political groups, they can all vie for support from among the Hong Kong population within the parameters of our electoral system, and within the parameters of their propositions for the electorate to consider.

Reporter: You have said that you hope that all those who intended to vote, they get the chance. You just said that you hoped all those who intended to vote got the chance to actually vote. But you have not answered the question that my colleague posed earlier. Did anybody, do you think, were anybody driven away faced by these humongous queues because of these irregularities in the provision of polling boxes? Do you think anybody was turned away?

SCA: At this point, we have to await the detailed reports from the 501 presiding officers who manned the polling stations before we can comment in further detail on the practical situation on the ground. But on the whole, today's participation rate has been high and we do wish that this electoral success is for Hong Kong to regard as one of the milestones in Hong Kong's constitutional and democratic development.

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

Ends/Monday, September 13, 2004