Lower voter turnout in Macau may be a warning sign for HK

The voter turnout in Macau’s Legislative Assembly elections nosedived by nearly 15 percent – which commentators said could serve as a warning to Hong Kong if the opposition will not participate in the Legislative Council polls in December.

The Macau elections yesterday were held after the gambling hub’s Electoral Affairs Commission disqualified 21 opposition candidates on July 9 after it “proved they did not uphold Macau’s Basic Law and were not loyal to Macau.”

The final voting rate was 42.38 percent – down 14.84 percent compared to the 57.22 percent turnout in the last election in 2017.

With over 320,000 eligible voters, only 137,281 cast their votes to return 14 seats out of 33 total seats in the Legislative Assembly. They were contested by 128 candidates from 14 parties.

Twelve of the remaining 19 seats are returned through indirect elections within professional sectors – similar to Hong Kong’s functional constituencies – and Macau’s Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng will appoint the remaining seven seats.

Tong Hio-fong, chairman of the commission, blamed the pandemic for the low turnout rate, noting that those overseas could not return to Macau to vote due to border closures.

But political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung of Chinese University said the drop was mainly due to the disqualification of the 21 opposition candidates.

“It caused the election to lack competitiveness, with pro-democracy supporters losing their desire to vote,” Choy said.

He added this is an “alarming sign” for Hong Kong, where the opposition camp has a greater vote share than its counterpart in Macau.

“If the pro-democracy camp, for some reason, could not run in the elections in December, the voter turnout rate in Hong Kong may experience an even bigger drop as compared to Macau,” Choy said.

Ho said after casting his vote that there is no opposition camp or pro-democracy camp in Macau as the hub’s lawmakers are not divided into groups.

“From my 10 years of experience in the Legislative Assembly, lawmakers’ efforts [to scrutinize government policies have never decreased],” Ho said.

“They will speak out against if they think the government has subpar policies and they do not need to be divided into camps to do so.

“The Legislative Assembly will exercise its monitoring rights over the government in accordance with the Basic Law.

“And I hope lawmakers do point out and criticize the mistakes of the government to allow it to improve.”

Asked whether he was expecting blank or invalid votes, Ho called on voters to exercise their civil rights.

“Everyone has an assessment of their own civil rights and has an idea whom to vote for. We do not have any guidelines as to who voters should vote for.”

Pandemic “health codes” were enforced during the voting to avoid.

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