Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday confirmed that the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) will this week start discussing matters related to by-elections for Legislative Council seats vacated by disqualified lawmakers. This suggests by-elections for four of the six vacated LegCo seats will be held in about six months, barring some unanticipated incidents.
For the sake of saving public resources, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau could have decided to wait for judicial proceedings over the other two vacated seats to be completed and conduct by-elections for all six vacated seats together on the same date. But it decided to conduct a by-election first for the four seats that have been cleared of legal procedures, and leave that for the remaining two which are still in the middle of judicial procedures for another day.
It is widely believed that if by-elections for all six vacated seats are held together, there may be a higher chance the opposition camp would lose at least two seats, a scenario many members of the camp have worried about.
The by-election arrangement the CE revealed reflects the administration’s commitment to uphold the long-established electoral institution. It echoes Lam’s earlier pledge that “everything will be done according to the normal rules and legal requirements. We will not use political maneuvering to achieve any particular election results”.
Now the question is this: Are members of the opposition also as ardent and sincere in upholding the institution?
If they are, they should dissuade those disqualified legislators, who are all from their ranks, from participating in the upcoming by-elections. Some, if not all, of those disqualified legislators are reportedly considering standing in the forthcoming by-elections in order to return to the legislature. By deliberately spoiling their oaths during the swearing-in ceremony last October, those disqualified legislators-elect have unequivocally demonstrated they do not subscribe to the political institution governing the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The court rulings that stripped their legislative seats have further confirmed this.
Unfortunately, there is a dearth of upright members in the opposition camp, who would have done, or at least said, the right things in response to the botched swearing-in. Rather, almost the whole camp threw their weight behind those disqualified legislators when they fought a legal battle against their disqualification.
In the absence of honest members in the opposition camp, who would do the unenviable job of stopping their unfit peers from running in the upcoming by-elections for the sake of common good, there should be someone else who can do the job. The returning officers are probably in the position to do the job as they are tasked with making sure all candidates will meet the legal requirements needed in running for public office.