The government has suggested that the amount of the subsidy – paid on a per vote basis – and the election expenses limit of Legislative Council candidates should be increased for the 2016 election.
The Panel on Constitutional Affairs in LegCo on Monday was told that the suggested increase would mean that the upper limit of election expenses would go up by 15.6 percent compared with 2012, while the spending limit for every list of candidates would be over HK$3 million for the New Territories East and New Territories West constituency.
District Council (second) function constituency candidates, or “super district councilors” who can campaign in all of Hong Kong, would be able to spend up to HK$6,936,000.
Helena Wong Pik-wan (left) and Ronald Chan Ngok-pang (right). File Photo: Apple Daily.
Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said that the Kowloon West constituency she was in would have one more seat in the next election, and she expected that candidates will get fewer votes due to increased competition, thus fewer subsidies.
She added she was worried that the increase in election expenses limit may benefit richer candidates with more resources for campaigning.
But Ronald Chan Ngok-pang, Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, said that in theory candidates can recover all their expenses through the per vote subsidies, if they spend less in the election.
DAB Party lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung said in response to Chan that his suggestion was “impractical,” and he also supported scrapping the limit.
In the suggestion, LegCo election candidates would get HK$14 per vote they received as a subsidy, up from the previous HK$12, to off-set continuing inflation.
However, Democratic Party lawmaker Sin Chung-kai said that “the current arrangement is not flexible – candidates will only receive the subsidy if they have received five percent or more of the valid votes in the election.” He suggested that candidates receiving less than five percent of the valid votes should be subsidised as well.
Ronald Chan said that there was only one rejected application out of 77 for subsidies from candidates in the last LegCo election, and he did not see a strong desire from society to lower the five percent limit.
In March, the government increased the amount of subsidy and the election expenses limit for candidates running in the District Council election.
The subsidy for candidates was also increased from HK$12 to HK$14 per vote, and the election expenses limit was increased from $53,800 to $63,100.