Prior to the 2012 chief executive election, a small circle election in which only the 1,200 members of the election committee were allowed to vote, the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP) organized an unofficial election for Hong Kong people to choose their chief executive.
A total of 220,000 voters cast their votes either at the dozen of polling stations across the city or through the internet.
Two years later, the HKUPOP conducted a referendum on the various reform proposals for the 2017 CE election.
The referendum was an enormous success with 790,000 citizens casting their votes.
After having organized two large-scale public voting campaigns, the HKUPOP has got the hang of it and has perfected all the necessary technologies and skills.
As the 2017 CE election is just five months away, I can’t see any reason why the HKUPOP shouldn’t hold another unofficial election.
However, compared to the last CE election, things are a lot trickier this time, and a lot more is at stake in this election.
So far none of the pro-establishment hopefuls has announced their candidacy yet, nor has the pan-democrats decided whether they are going to send their own candidates to run like they did in 2007 and 2012.
Given all the uncertainties and variables in next year’s chief executive race, organizing an unofficial election that is able to attract a high turnout would definitely prove a daunting task for the HKUPOP.
Even though it might still be a bit too early to decide on the details of the arrangement for this unofficial election, perhaps we should start looking at some of the possible plans.
The first plan I propose is that we should totally forget about whoever is running in the real election and allow our citizens to nominate their own favorite candidates through the process of civil nomination.
If anyone passes a certain threshold, let’s say being able to get the nomination of several hundred thousand eligible voters online, then he or she should become an “official” candidate in our unofficial election.
If the voter turnout of this unofficial election is similar to that in 2012, then the person who wins it will certainly have a lot more credibility than the one who wins the small circle election.
It is because all the real CE-elect could win would be 1,200 votes at most, whereas our unofficial CE-elect could get hundreds of thousands of votes.
The second plan I suggest is that we can allow citizens to vote for the same list of candidates as in the real election, only that they are allowed to cast blank votes to express their disapproval.
If the candidate who wins the real election loses in our unofficial election, or wins in our unofficial election but at the same time gets a lot of blank votes, then he or she will definitely be embarrassed, thereby highlighting the low representativeness and injustice of the small circle election.
Some might be worried that asking voters to vote on the same candidates as the real CE election is the same as endorsing the unjust system.
They might have a point there, but to me, the most important thing is to let the voices of the people be heard, and I believe my plan can achieve this overriding goal.
The last plan I propose is that instead of holding an unofficial CE election, we can organize a referendum on such critical issues as whether to implement a universal retirement scheme or whether to abolish the functional constituency in the Legislative Council.
If the people vote overwhelmingly in favor of any of these options, then it will certainly create huge pressure on the real CE-elect to answer their calls.
However, the problem is, voting on particular issues rather than CE candidates might sound unattractive to voters and result in a low voter turnout.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 15.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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