Monday, 26 December 2011

Citywide Referendum

An interesting experiment will be conducted in Hong Kong -- giving ordinary people an opportunity to cast their ballot for who they'd like to be the next Chief Executive.

Veteran pollster Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, head of the University of Hong Kong's public opinion program, plans to hold a citywide vote two days before 1,200 members of the Election Committee hold their vote.

Chung proposes that anyone who is a permanent resident and over the age of 18 will be able to vote on March 23 with results announced later that day.

While the result won't have any official or legal significance, it will be a very good indicator of who the public wants to be in charge of Hong Kong and could sway those Election Commitee voters who promised to take into account public opinion.

Chung plans to use an electronic voting system where people can cast their votes by mobile phone or computer, as well as polling stations he and his staff will set up around the city.

The sophisticated voting system will be able to verify the voters' identities but also protect their privacy. This kind of internet-based voting system has been used in Australia, Brazil, India and Estonia.

Chung estimates 80,000 to 100,000 people will come out to vote, but really hopes the number will jump to half a million.

The cost of administering an e-poll of 50,000 people or more will be around HK$1 per voter and Chung plans to raise about HK$500,000 for the project to meet his ambitious estimate.

He will be asking the three main candidates for Chief Executive to help sponsor the poll, and this includes Henry Tang Ying-yen, Leung Chun-ying and pan-democrat candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan or Frederick Fung Kin-kee.

Chung will decide by early March whether or not to go ahead with the plan and he would not need the approval of HKU.

While many see this possible exercise as a referendum, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office has warned that any so-called referendum in the city would be a challenge to the Basic Law and the central government's authority.

That gives even more reason to vote in this public opinion ballot.

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