Former Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-wah recently weighed in on the difficulties the current administration is facing, saying the inability of the government to govern effectively has its roots in the fact that the chief executive finds it hard to secure votes in the legislature because he is not allowed to have any party affiliation under the existing Chief Executive Election Ordinance.
On the other hand, Professor Lau Siu-kai, former chief adviser to the Central Policy Unit, said denying the chief executive of any party membership does stand in the way of achieving effective governance.
However, that built-in disadvantage in the system can be remedied if the chief executive forms a close alliance with pro-establishment parties in the Legislative Council, he said.
But since pro-establishment parties in the legislature and the chief executive represent different and even conflicting sets of interests, forming a close and long-term partnership between the two is easier said than done, he said.
In fact, Professor Lau raised a very interesting question: Why are the chief executive and pro-establishment parties in Legco, both of whom are endorsed by Beijing, representing two different sets of interests? Aren’t they supposed to be representing the same vested interests?
My answer is that the chief executive election and the Legco election are two entirely different ball games both in terms of the election process and the demographics of the voters.
In the chief executive election, only 1,200 people in the city have the right to vote.
These people often represent the economically well-off sectors of society, such as big business and the professional sector.
In order to gain their support, any candidate for chief executive has to answer the requests of these voters and serve their interests.
As such, it is fair to say that the chief executive generally represents the interests of the privileged class.
However, the Legco election is an open election in which people from all walks of life are allowed to vote, and many of them belong to the underprivileged class or the working poor.
Likewise, in order to win their votes, those running for Legco seats have to promise to look after their interests.
Simply put, political parties in Legco, be they pan-democratic or pro-establishment, all represent the interests of the common people in society.
Such a fundamental difference in the demographics of voters between the chief executive election and the Legco election explains why the CE can’t always find common ground with the pro-establishment parties in the legislature on any particular issue, let alone form a sustainable ruling coalition, because they often represent conflicting interests.
Numerous attempts in the past, such as appointing pro-establishment lawmakers to the Executive Council or designating them as bureau chiefs, have failed to build a long-term and sustainable partnership between the two.
Unless the issue of different demographics and rules of the game between the CE and Legco elections is addressed, I can’t see any promising prospect of any viable and stable partnership between the chief executive and pro-establishment parties in the legislature in the foreseeable future.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 6.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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