Hong Kong postpones elections for a year ‘over virus concerns’

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The Hong Kong government has postponed September’s parliamentary elections by a year, saying it’s necessary amid an increase in coronavirus infections.

Hong Kong is currently experiencing a spike in Covid-19 infections, and reported 121 new cases on Friday.

However, the opposition has accused the govt of using the pandemic as a pretext to prevent people from voting.

On Thursday, the govt banned 12 pro-democracy candidates from running within the elections.

Opposition activists had hoped to get a majority within the legislature (LegCo) in September’s poll, capitalising on anger at Beijing’s imposition of a controversial national security law in Hong Kong , and fears that the territory’s freedoms are being eroded.

Pro-democracy candidates had made unprecedented gains in last year’s district council elections, winning 17 out of 18 councils.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she would invoke emergency powers to postpone the elections, adding that “this is that the most difficult decision I’ve remodeled the past seven months.”

How bad is that the pandemic in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has had quite 100 daily new cases, for 10 days during a row.

The overall numbers are still less than those of the many other places – but the spike comes after Hong Kong seemed to have contained the outbreak, with weeks of few or no local infections.

Now, it’s experiencing what’s been described as a “third wave” of infections, and on Wednesday, Ms Lam said the town was on the verge of a “large-scale outbreak”, which could cause hospitals to “collapse”.

Health experts have told the BBC that, with the reintroduction of social distancing measures, the speed of infection appears to possess slowed, and that they hope Hong Kong are going to be back to shut to zero local infections within four to 6 weeks.

The city has introduced tough new measures to combat the virus, banning gatherings of quite two people.

What’s the argument for postponing elections?
The territory has had quite 3,200 confirmed infections, and 27 deaths, from the virus.

Ms Lam said Hong Kong’s pandemic was in “its worst situation since January” and “as community spread continues, the danger of a large-scale outbreak will increase”.

She said that with 4.4m registered voters in Hong Kong , the elections would involve “a large-scale gathering and an immense infection risk”, while social distancing measures would prevent candidates from canvassing.

She also said that proceeding with elections in September would pose a specific risk to elderly voters, which Hong Kong had many registered voters in China , and overseas, who would be unable to require part within the elections while border quarantine measures were in situ .

What’s the argument against delaying the polls?
Opposition politicians say that, under local election laws, the polls can only be postponed by 14 days, which a extended delay would “trigger a constitutional crisis within the city”.

Lawmaker Tanya Chan said she suspected pro-government politicians were more concerned about “their own election prospects” instead of “the severity of the pandemic”.

Some experts have suggested that measures might be put into place to form elections safer, like reducing waiting times at polling stations – which a delay of an entire year isn’t necessary.

What produce other governments done?
At least 68 countries or territories postponed elections thanks to Covid-19, while 49 places held elections as planned, says the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

Singapore held its election earlier this month – and had its highest turnout in recent years, says Eugene Tan, a law professor and political commentator at Singapore Management University.

“There isn’t an honest time for an election during an epidemic ,” he says, but the vote went ahead with several safety measures in situ and “demonstrates that it’s possible to guard public health whilst people set about exercising their democratic right to vote.”

How does the legislature work?
The legislature – or LegCo – helps to form and amend Hong Kong’s laws.

It is made from 70 seats – but only 35 of those seats are directly voted for by the general public .

Another 30 seats represent “functional constituencies” – these are voted for by smaller groups representing special interests, primarily businesses, banking and trade. Historically these sectors are largely pro-Beijing.

The last five seats are made from district councillors who are elected by the general public to take a seat on LegCo.

This system, where only a proportion of LegCo councillors are chosen by the general public , has been called undemocratic by critics but supporters of the system say it helps avoid populism and protects Hong Kong’s business interests.

Source: bbc news

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