Societal discontent over the government’s lack of preparation for and handling of Typhoon Hato likely led to a higher turnout at this year’s Legislative Assembly elections, providing a backlash against pro-establishment candidates and strengthening the pro-democratic camp, political analysts told Business Daily.
“The wind blew voters into the voting ballots, so to say […] The pro-establishment camp didn’t get that many votes since a large number of the community were angry at the way the government handled [the typhoon],” political analyst and researcher Larry So told Business Daily.
According to Mr. So, social discontent over mishandling of funds and lack of affordable housing, also led voters to cast their votes for candidates who were more engaged in social issues and more connected to the pan-democratic camp.
This year’s Legislative Assembly (AL) elections saw the participation of approximately 57.22 per cent of the 305,615 registered voters, up 2.2 percentage points, or 22,992 voters, when compared to the last election held in 2013.
“Although the percentage of voters is not much higher, you can see that there was a better distribution of voters in the different electoral lists, with the last election not being so evenly distributed […] This is also, I think, because the younger generation, moved by the typhoon, went largely to the pan-democratic camp,” So added.
Winners and losers
On the pro-democratic camp, long-serving legislators Ng Kuok Cheong and Au Kam San both confirmed their continuation in the AL, while Sulu Sou Ka Hou (also from the democratic camp) became the youngest elected legislator, at 26 years old.
According to Mr. So “many people were saying that Mr. Au would have trouble getting votes,” after comments made by the legislator questioning the government’s decision to request the assistance of the People’s Liberation Army to help clean up the city after the passage of Typhoon Hato, but he “ended up having no problem”, getting a total of 11,380 votes, more than in the 2013 elections.
“Of course the largest surprise was Mr. [Sulu] Sou who got elected […] The pan-democratic camp will have some more members in the upcoming AL and I predict the government will have more challenges and more questions from the new legislators,” Mr. So considered.
Meanwhile, legislator José Pereira Coutinho was also re-elected with 14,383 votes, but his New Hope electoral list failed to gather enough votes to re-elect legislator Leong Veng Chai.
The two electoral lists connected to outgoing legislator and businessman Chan Meng Kam – aligned with Fujian associations and more pro-establishment – managed to elect legislators Si Ka Lon and Song Pek Kei, but lost one seat in the AL.
The two lists together received less votes than the list led by Mr. Chan in the 2013 elections, which at the time gathered 26,385 votes – the highest vote amount received in MSAR elections – and gained the candidate group three seats in the AL.
“Mr. Chan tried very hard to include his people, but he himself was not running. Splitting the team in two electoral lists was done to try to elect at least three legislators, but it didn’t happen,” Mr. So told Business Daily.
Awareness and awakening
“People suffered a lot of hardship after the typhoon and they reflected more on ‘who can we put there that can better represent us’ and looked at the issues of infrastructure and housing,” Associate professor in International Integrated Resort Management at the University of Macau, Glenn McCartney, told Business Daily.
According to Mr. McCartney, apart from the recent impetus created by Typhoon Hato, the higher turn out and the outcome of the election was more associated with young educated Macau residents having more awareness of issues such as “inflation, health care, welfare and education” and being active in voicing their complaints.
The increased number of candidate lists linked to the gaming industry could also have impacted the choices of younger voters in particular, who seemed to focus on issues affecting the MSAR as a whole.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it is revealed that a lot of the voters were young residents or young middle executives working in the gaming and hospitality industry. The gaming sector is important and that’s not going away, but these voters also want to see how their money is being spent,” he added.
In this year’s elections, SJM’s executive director, Angela Leong On Kei, secured another four-year term, but failed to obtain a seat for her partner, local businessman William Kuan Wai Lam. Meanwhile, Melinda Chan – wife of the head of casino operator Macau Legend Development Ltd, local businessman David Chow Kam Fai – failed to be re-elected as a legislator.
On the other hand, the Casino Frontline Workers – an electoral list comprised of gaming sector workers and involved in several recent workers’ protests – although failing to elect a legislator, managed to gather 3,129 votes in its first time running.
With a new Chief Executive to be elected in 2019, and with gaming concessions to expire in 2020 and 2022, the newly elected legislators will have an opportunity to discuss the tender process for the new gaming licenses, with Mr. McCartney saying there was a concern that a more “fractured” AL could give an image of “political instability” in the MSAR and create “negative investor confidence in Macau”.