sábado, 26 de setembro de 2009

Compra de votos nas eleições legislativas

Vote-buying not as obvious but still widespread
Crackdown fails to stop giveaways

Fox Yi Hu
South China Morning Post
September 25, 2009

Despite a crackdown on vote-buying, the practice went underground and ballot-rigging through giveaways remained widespread in Macau's legislative election on Sunday.

Eilo Yu Wing-yat, assistant professor of politics at the University of Macau, said candidates appeared more constrained in campaigning compared with the 2005 legislative poll.

"Vote-buying turned low-key but the problem has not gone," he said. "Supermarket coupons worth a few hundred patacas were still being handed out at dinner parties."

The hawker-like agents seen openly walking around Macau streets offering freebies or directly buying votes in 2005 were not visible in the latest poll. But free meals and free rides were widely used to influence voters' decisions on and before polling day on Sunday.

It is widely known that in the 2005 poll, voter permits had a price of 500 patacas. Those receiving the cash would hand their permits to vote-buying agents, who returned them on polling day, with the expectation that the voter would opt for the favoured candidate.

But the government this year scrapped the use of such permits, allowing registered voters to simply use their Macau identity cards when casting ballots. Macau's Commission Against Corruption hailed the rule change as a deterrent to electoral fraud. However, there was still organised vote-buying in the build-up to the election, with the market price for each ballot ranging from 500 to 700 patacas.

Last Friday, graft-busters arrested a number of people who allegedly ran a vote-buying operation.

Their vote-buying task was subcontracted out three times and those dealing directly with voters offered to pay 500 to 700 patacas per ballot.

Although there were no voter permits, the alleged vote-buyers had been collecting identity documents from voters.

On the same day, graft-busters searched the office of a charity run by candidates Lai Cho-wai and Kuan Vai-lam and took away computers and documents.

Lai and Kuan said they were not involved in vote-buying and had no idea what the search was about.

Business has boomed at large Chinese restaurants in the past few months and restaurateurs openly admitted that it was due to election-related banquets.

Since last month, a social group supporting candidate Mak Soi-kun, who won a seat, has hosted nearly 20,000 people in 20 large parties at the Federal Restaurant.

Yu said many social groups had been mobilised to attract voters, especially through banquets.

"Many groups that had been inactive suddenly came back to life in the build-up to the election," the professor said. "They became a tool for canvassing or even vote-buying."

The government's move to fund banquets to mark two anniversaries helped the campaigning of some candidates, he said.

The government launched a costly scheme to mark both the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China and the 10th anniversary of Macau's handover to China. It allowed social groups to apply for subsidies of up to 300 patacas per participant for organising celebrations, with each Macau resident limited to one event.

Many of the events, locally known as a "double celebration", turned out to be banquets with lucky draws.

Macau media reports said more than 500 groups applied for subsidies for 400,000 residents. Based on this figure, the government would have spent 120 million patacas.

On Sunday, several election teams mobilised fleets of taxis and private cars to send voters to 27 polling stations. The catch was that you had to vote for their candidates.

Driving voters to polling stations was permissible, the Electoral Affairs Commission said, but canvassing during the trip was forbidden.

At Fisherman's Wharf, people could eat for one pataca, but they were then asked to support candidate Melinda Chan Mei-yi, who later won a seat.

The Commission Against Corruption on Sunday arrested a man for driving a voter to a polling station and canvassing during the trip.

Macau's Legislative Assembly comprises 29 members, with 12 elected by popular vote, 10 elected through functional constituencies and seven appointed by the chief executive.

The 2005 vote was plagued with scandals, from minor bribes to direct vote-buying, and attacks on a candidate and a journalist.

Police and graft-busters arrested dozens of suspects, leading to four trials over ballot-buying. Wu Lin, a running mate of Fujian community leader Chan Meng-kam, was jailed for four years in 2007.

Political commentator Professor Larry So Man-yum, of Macau Polytechnic Institute, said voters showed higher awareness of electoral democracy and treated their ballots more seriously than in previous elections.

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