The outline of a government-initiated bill to amend the Legislative Assembly Election Law was passed in its first reading during a plenary session of the legislature on Tuesday, with four lawmakers voting against and 28 lawmakers voting for the bill.
A total of 32 lawmakers cast their votes. As is customary, the speaker of the legislature refrained from voting.
Grassroots lawmakers Antonio Ng Kuok Cheong and Au Kam San as well as lawmakers-cum-unionists Jose Pereira Coutinho and Leong Veng Chai voted against the bill.
Following the bill’s passage, it will be passed to one of the legislature’s standing committees for an in-depth debate and article-by-article review after which it will be resubmitted to another plenary session for an article-by-article vote in its second and final reading.
Among its four detractors, Ng slammed the bill for its ban on lawmakers who give up their seat for personal reasons from standing as a candidate in the resulting by-election. Ng said the ban restricted residents’ political freedoms.
Ng criticised the bill for not turning the legislature more democratic by adding more directly-elected lawmakers.
The bill does not change the current structure of the legislature, which consists of 14 members directly elected by popular vote, 12 members indirectly elected by association representatives and seven members appointed by the chief executive.
Coutinho claimed that some of the bill’s amendments violated the Macau Basic Law because they restricted citizens’ right to be a legislative election candidatez
Coutinho also criticised the ban on those who are lawmakers or officials of a foreign country from standing as a candidate.
Government-appointed lawmakers said the amendments proposed by the government had responded to the demands of the general public and would help better regulate the city’s legislative elections.
Responding to Ng’s criticism, Chan said that the city had carried out political reforms in 2012, adding that the purpose of the amendments was to ensure that the process of the legislative elections will be better regulated. “The amendments are also important elements for democratic development”, she said.
Chan added the government would focus on improving residents’ livelihoods and economic development, amid the city’s economic downturn, instead of launching major political reforms.
Chan also said that the bill’s ban on lawmakers who give up their seats to run in the ensuing by-election was in force in many jurisdictions, adding that the government introduced the ban in response to residents’ views on the matter.
Responding to Coutinho’s criticism, Chan said the fact that a person is a lawmaker in Macau and also in a foreign country would create the problem of “dual allegiance”, adding that the amendments would prevent such a predicament.
Chan also said that all the amendments were made in accordance with Macau’s highest law, the Basic Law.
Meanwhile, Au criticised the bill for not introducing the possibility of sting operations as a way of combating electoral corruption.(Macau News / The Macau Post Daily)