The government has announced that the 2017 Legislative Assembly (AL) elections will take place on September 17, according to a dispatch in the Official Gazette.
In addition to the election date, the maximum amount allowed for campaign expenses for each candidate was also announced, capped at below MOP3.55 million, a 37.1 per cent reduction from the maximum candidate expense amount of MOP5.65 million that was allowed in the AL elections of 2013.
According to the new Electoral Law, the maximum amount was established though analysis of the MSAR population, the number of registered voters and the city’s economic development. The maximum amount is required to be equal to less than 0.004 per cent of the average MSAR government revenues over the last 10 years.
Candidacy expenses have to be presented to the Electoral Committee within 90 days of the election date, with the penalty for candidates exceeding the expense limit ranging from a six-month prison sentence to a MOP1 million fine.
The announcement finally sets a date for the 307,020 voters registered in the MSAR to elect 14 of the 33 total legislators in the AL, with 12 being elected by associations and seven directly elected by Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On.
Prospective candidates have to make their applications to the Electoral Commission 70 days before the election date, with electoral campaigning only allowed 15 days before election day.
Despite establishing a limit on electoral expenses, no limit for donations received by candidates and associations was set, with the law stipulating that donations – either monetary, via services, or in the form of objects – can only be received from MSAR residents and must be declared to the authorities.
Reducing the expense limit was one of the amendments demanded by MSAR residents during a 30-day public consultation last year regarding changes to the AL Election Law.
The Election Law changes were approved by the assembly in December of 2016, imposing requirements such as demanding that candidates pay a guarantee deposit of MOP25,000 (US$3,125) which will be retained by the government if the candidate does not get a certain number of votes.
One of the most contentious changes involves a mandate that candidates will have to declare their loyalty to the MSAR and that they will uphold the city’s Basic Law. The alteration was added after two pro-democracy legislators were barred from taking a seat in the Hong Kong Legislative Assembly for performing allegiance pledges deemed illegal by the Mainland China central government.