Macau election flop after 21 pro-democracy candidates excluded
Turnout falls to 42 per cent, 15 points lower than in 2017. Pro-democracy leaders were excluded in July for violating the special region’s constitution. The authorities blamed the heat and COVID-19 for keeping voters away. In Hong Kong, a well-known pro-democracy leader quit the group that organises the vigil for Tiananmen.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Macau reported the lowest turnout ever in its legislative election.
Only 42 per cent of voters cast their ballot yesterday to pick Macau’s14 directly elected lawmakers; down from 57 per cent in 2017. Blank or spoilt ballots doubled to 2.3 per cent.
The election flop in the city of casinos comes after a local court in July excluded 21 pro-democracy candidates from running, ostensibly for violating Macau’s constitution and refusing to pledge allegiance to Macau Special Autonomous Region, which replaced the former Portuguese colony after its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1999.
Like in neighbouring Hong Kong, Macau authorities have targeted various local pro-democracy leaders and activists.
According to police, the disqualified politicians have ties to pro-democracy Hong Kong leaders and took part in a vigil on 4 June in the former British colony to commemorate the Tiananmen massacre.
They are also guilty of visiting Taiwan during the island’s last presidential election and commemorating Nobel laureate dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Pro-democracy groups managed to elect three lawmakers, including veteran José Pereira Coutinho; except for one independent, all the others ran for pro-Beijing parties.
The professional sectors chose 12 lawmakers, chosen by indirect elections, while seven lawmakers were appointed directly by the Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng.
Election officials blamed the low turnout on the COVID-19 pandemic and the great heat. However, analysts note that the city reported its last coronavirus case six weeks ago, with only 63 cases since the start of the pandemic and no deaths.
As for the temperature, election day reached 34 degrees Celsius, just above the seasonal average.
Like Hong Kong in the past year, “patriotic” election reform denied the pro-democracy camp any chance of victory.
Since Communist China imposed a draconian security law 14 months ago, Hong Kong police have arrested 143 people considered a threat to national security with 84 indicted and some convicted. All are linked in some way to the pro-democracy movement.
As a result, Hong Kong's pro-democracy forces are facing increasing difficulties.
Today Albert Ho announced he was leaving the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, the group that organises the annual vigil in remembrance of the events in Tiananmen.
The former president of the Democratic Party is serving an 18-month sentence for taking part in an unauthorised anti-government protest in 2019.
Last week, Ho and other Alliance leaders, including well-known activist Lee Cheuk-yan, were charged with "subversion".