A ban proposed by the Macau government regarding gaming concessionaires “intervening” in the electoral campaign for the Legislative Assembly has caught some of the legislators by surprise, according to several with casino links that were approached by GGRAsia. The Legislative Assembly (pictured) is to begin on Tuesday discussions regarding revisions to the electoral law.
Among several proposed amendments is one stating that companies awarded public concessions by the government – including Macau’s gaming concessionaires – cannot, either directly or indirectly, intervene in electoral campaign activities; nor can they carry out actions that will favour or harm one electoral ticket. In Macau, some seats in the Legislative Assembly are apportioned via direct election, and some via either indirect elections or appointment by the city’s chief executive.
GGRAsia approached legislators Angela Leong On Kei and Zheng Anting – both directly-elected members with ties to the local gaming industry – for comment over the proposed changes to the electoral law. They separately expressed surprise over the government-proposed revision. Both said they needed more time to examine the changes suggested by the government.
Ms Leong, an executive director of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd, has successfully campaigned three times in Macau for a directly-elected seat on the Legislative Assembly. Zheng Anting, a local junket representative, first campaigned – and successfully – for a directly-elected seat in 2013. He was the second candidate on an electoral ticket headed by Mak Soi Kun.
Chan Meng Kam, a veteran legislator and a local casino boss, said he sees no problem with the changes to the electoral law. Mr Chan is the president of Golden Dragon Group Co Ltd, which runs Casino Golden Dragon and Casino Taipa Square. The venue of Casino Golden Dragon makes use – under what is known as a service contract – of the gaming licence of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings; Casino Taipa Square is operated under the gaming licence of Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd.
“The amendment says that gaming concessionaires, just as other concessionaires of public services or public works, have to adopt a neutral stance regarding electoral campaign activities – I absolutely agree,” Mr Chan told GGRAsia.
“I don’t think this new change will affect my campaign next year,” he added.
The next election for Macau’s Legislative Assembly will take place in 2017. It would be the fourth time that Mr Chan has run for a directly-elected seat on the legislative body.
Mr Chan emerged as the big winner of the September 2013 election, with his ticket wining three seats out of the 14 available to directly-elected legislators on the 33-member body.
At the time, Mr Chan denied reports that his association – People’s Alliance of Macau – had offered its members benefits in exchange for votes, such as free meals. Macau’s Commission Against Corruption also received complaints of free shuttles to take voters to ballot stations and free meals offered during the electoral campaign in 2013.
There are no political parties in Macau’s legislative elections; instead electors choose from a selection of tickets each featuring several candidates typically linked to the interests of a local association.
“I don’t exert pressure onto my staff to vote for me,” Mr Chan said. “They are free to vote for whoever they want to support.”
Eilo Yu Wing Yat, an associate professor of public administration at the University of Macau, queried the validity of banning public concessionaires – including gaming operators – from taking part in electoral campaign activities; as currently proposed in the bill revising the electoral law.
“This revision may appear discriminatory,” Mr Yu told GGRAsia. “We understand that the gaming industry has a stronger influence than other sectors here. But for the population here, all types of businesses or companies should be subjected to the same electoral rules, considering the principle of fairness,” he added.
GGRAsia approached the Office for the Secretary of Administration and Justice to get more insight into the proposed ban against gaming concessionaires’ intervention in electoral campaigns, but did not receive a reply by the time the story went online.
The Legislative Assembly is set on Tuesday to have the first reading of the electoral law amendment.
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