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Deliberative democracy in HK has the edge over other systems

By Maxine Yao | | Updated: 2021-09-21 02:30
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Maxine Yao says system has an institutional advantage which allows authentic public opinion to be shown

The Election Committee Elections held on Sunday can be classified as a showcase of deliberative democracy under the “one country two systems” principle. Deliberative democracy is the third path between direct and indirect democracy. Professor James S. Fishkin of Stanford University, who is the director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy, defines five keys elements of deliberative democracy as: informed, balanced, conscientious, substantive, and comprehensive. We can find these elements incorporated in our Election Committee Elections.

All voters and candidates are fully informed in the Election Committee Elections. Under the new electoral system, the candidates send their political platforms to voters to state their arguments for the betterment of their constituencies. The content of these political platforms is based on accurate factual claims. With comparison of confrontation politics of direct and indirect democracy, most of the content of political platforms is unachievable.

The elections are run under the principle of “balanced participation”. Arguments and collective interests of different constituencies can be shown and reflected by 1,488 members. Their wishes can be effectively communicated to the 40 candidates of the Legislative Council and the future Chief Executive.

The participants in the Election Committee Elections are conscientious, in that they are willing to talk and listen, with civility and respect.

All the newly elected Election Committee members are substantive to their job, although they are all volunteers. The voters consider sincerely on their merits, not on how rich or how powerful they are.

The combination of all 1,488 elected members is comprehensive. All points of view held by significant portions of the Hong Kong population can receive attention by their representation.

The authentic deliberation among the same constituency has been embodied in the constituencies of Legal and Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape subsectors. The age range of the elected members is wide, which can allow the veterans to teach the amateurs in practicing politics. A 90 to 100 percent voting rate is rarely achievable in general direct and indirect democracy, but we have got it done. It enhances the legitimacy of the whole Election Committee Elections. The ones who got the least number of votes in the election teams should put more effort into convincing the public and their constituencies how they can contribute in the future if some of them are planning to run in the coming Legislative Council Elections.

The Social Welfare subsector has got the fiercest competition. Tik Chi-yuen, a moderate “democratic” candidate, could only win his seat by drawing lots with two other candidates who received the same number of votes. Sai Kung district council chairman Francis Chau lost his race. This result shows that Tik Chi-yuen and his teams may be able to get marginal votes if they run in the coming Legislative Council Elections.

A clear message shows marginal elected members that they need to do more for public interest and their constituencies. Deliberative democracy has an institutional advantage which allows authentic public opinion to be shown. All participants can be free from distortion of unequal political powers.

The author is a surveyor and community organizer of Path of Democracy.


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