Saturday, December 06, 2014

Electoral Reform

The Basic Law states that the eventual aim is to elect the Chief Executive (CE) by universal suffrage. This would mean that every eligible Hong Kong citizen could cast a vote for CE, instead of just members of the Election Committee, as is in the current system. The government has promised to implement this change by 2017. However, the proposed electoral reforms have caused a great deal of controversy, leading to the massive protests that is happening in Hong Kong right now.

How can the electoral system be changed?
The Basic Law stipulates that any changes to the election of the CE must have the approval of three parties:
  • two-thirds of all Legislative Council members
  • the Chief Executive
  • the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC), which is the body of the Chinese government that has final constitutional authority

In 2004, the NPCSC outlined a "Five-Step Process" to institute electoral reform:
  1. The CE makes a report to the NPCSC regarding the need for electoral reform.
  2. The NPCSC determines whether there is a need for electoral reform.
  3. The HK government introduces the required bill to the Legislative Council, which will need to pass it by a two-thirds majority.
  4. The CE gives his/her consent to the bill.
  5. The CE hands the bill to the NPCSC, who will give final approval.

Proposed Reforms for 2017
On August 31, 2014, the NPCSC outlined a framework for the 2017 election:
  • Candidates will be nominated by a committee similar to the current Elections Committee
  • Candidates require support from at least 50% of the nomination committee to run in the election
  • The number of candidates will be limited to 2-3
  • The CE will be elected among the nominated candidates using a "one person, one vote" system

The election rules being used in The Election follow the proposed framework. Since the current Elections Committee consists of 1200 members, candidates in The Election require 600 nomination ballots to enter the race, as described in episode 3

A Democratic Process?
Pro-democracy activists have deemed the proposed framework as "false democracy". The reason is that potential candidates need to obtain support from at least 50% of the nomination committee. This allows the Chinese government to control who gets nominated, since they have significant influence on over half of the nomination committee. As a result, activists are concerned that only pro-Beijing candidates would be able to successfully secure a nomination, while the pro-democracy camp would be left out. 

To understand the implications of this system, look at the 2014 Miss Hong Kong Pageant. Citizens were allowed to vote for who they wanted to win the pageant. However, they could only choose among the three contestants that were selected by the judges. #15 Veronica Shiu was crowned the winner after receiving the majority of the votes in the final round, but the contestant with the most popular support, #11 Sofiee Ng, had actually been left out of the voting.

In episode 1 of The Election, Wai Man Hin stated that it was his desire to create a more democratic system, in particular, one that would allow citizens to nominate their preferred candidate. Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong are also calling for the same thing. It remains to be seen whether this will be achieved in the series, and in real life.


  1. Thanks for this post, as it definitely clarifies how the process works. Also great use of the MHK pageant as a comparison point -- that was a perfect analogy (though a bit ironic that TVB is utilizing the same process as the government, but of course not surprised....).

    1. I think with TVB using this system for MHK, it actually made more people realize what was wrong with the system. It ended up doing more bad than good for the government, even if that was not the original intent.