Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cicero and the Legislative Council Elections

The election of members to the Legislative Council of Hong Kong is now over. Generally I believe in a more liberal and democratic system, and universal suffrage. However, there are also some benefits in having an Upper House to provide some balance to the Lower House. If the Lower House is directly elected then the Upper House may be selected in some other form. The British and the American systems both have some form of Upper House.

The life of the great orator and politician Marcus Cicero provides a fascinating picture of the incredibly complex balancing act that is the Roman republican political system.

Cicero had been a Consul, the highest executive in the Roman republic. Two elected Consuls alternate in executive seniority month by month, and held office for one year only. There was a ladder of other posts up which aspiring politicians had to climb before they became eligible for the top job, the Consulship. The most junior was life membership in the Senate, with several hundred members. There were 20 Quaestors responsible for taxes and payments. 4 Aediles handled civic matters. 8 Praetors acted as judges. Only past Praetors can stand for Consulship. In the event of a dire military or political emergency, a Dictator could be appointed on the nomination of the Consuls - a Dictator held office for a maximum of 6 months. Former Consuls and Praetors were appointed governors of provinces. Former Consuls can be appointed Censors whose task was to review the membership of the Senate and remove those who were thought to be unworthy. It was unusual for former Consuls to win the Consulship again, ... One of the key issues was the balance of power.

The members of our Legislative Council elected from Functional Constituencies are supposed to provide that balance. But so many of them are outrageously unworthy. Some have bought bogus academic qualifications. Some are blatantly lazy. Some are elected by as little as 60 votes. Many are worse - returned unopposed. In some constituencies if you are very rich, owning several companies, you can control multiple votes. ... In contrast, in some of the geographical constituencies, you may not be able to secure a seat even if you have 20,000 votes. What kind of warped system is this? Perhaps we should also have some Censors to remove those blatantly unworthy?


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StephenC said...

Thank you for your kind words. You are very much welcome. Please feel free to comment and tell us what you think.