Dear Chinese Communist Party,
Since it seems clear that you intend to deny the will of the Hong Kong People, as well as international standards for universal suffrage, in the name of maintaining control over the nominating process for Chief Executive in Hong Hong, and since I promised I would do so earlier, I’d like to give you some advice about how to run free and fair elections in Hong Kong, without having to give up any of the control over Hong Kong politics you currently exercise. In fact, if you follow my advice I’m confident you will find Hong Kong much easier to control than it is now.
People are much easier to control when they are less aware of being controlled, and having elections that meet international standards will do much to placate Hong Kong democrats, thereby making the populace easier to marginalise on other issues. There are a few institutional tricks that can help you set up an easy-to-control two party system, instead of this messy multi-party thing going on in the Legislative Council at the moment.
Having only two parties to bribe (we call this making “campaign contributions” in my country, and it’s perfectly legal) makes controlling the political system much simpler and easier, just ask Goldman Sachs, which is regularly among the leading campaign donors to both the Republican and Democratic parties. Once again, my advice is based on how things work in the good ‘ol US of A. As a result, my proposal has the added benefit of making it nearly impossible for US politicians (or their loyal “pro-democracy” NGOs) to criticise you, since they would be exposing their own anti-democratic tricks in the process.
Duverger’s “Law” and how to create a two-party system
A one-off election, in which whoever gets the plurality of the votes becomes the Chief Executive, would be pretty easy to control, regardless of the nominating process. (American) political scientists have this principle called “Duverger’s Law,” that demonstrates the logic of single-member district elections: voters will rationalise that minor party candidates can’t win and so they will vote for whichever of the two major parties is closest to representing their views, even if neither party is particularly close (e.g. Americans against militarism tend to vote for the theoretically slightly less militaristic Democratic Party). This logic then creates two-party systems.
The multi-party mess in LegCo is largely the result of the geographical constituencies being made up of multi-member districts elected by proportional representation, in which political parties are given seats in proportion to the number of votes they received. This systems allows for much better representation of voters desires than what exists in the US Congress, obviously not something you want. It seems the Brits pulled a fast one on y’all with those multi-member districts, since their own voting system is of the much less democratic single-member district variety.
Of course, in LegCo the functional constituencies can outvote the geographical constituencies and this gives you control of LegCo. But non-democratically elected legislators, like overt control of the Chief Executive nomination, is way too obviously undemocratic and as a result people constantly protest the constitutional basis of the political system in Hong Kong.
The US Constitution is nearly never protested, nor even questioned, and is in fact worshipped-as-if-divinely-inspired by many of the very Americans who decry domination by elites and the oligarchic US political system. Yet it has several democracy stifling effects that are less obvious than those in Hong Kong, and therefore much more effective in placating the masses. Single member districts are just part of a complex system that allows elites to rule while maintaining the appearance of consent by the people.
The most recent UK election, not to mention consistently multi-party Parliaments in the UK and India, have caused [non-American] political scientists to question the empirical validity of Duverger’s Law, since it only really seems to work in the USA. Other features of US politics are likely responsible for creating the uber-controllable two party system only found in the US. The most obvious is the fact that the President is elected in a one-off, one-day election (no run-off elections or any other democratic elements seen in more modern democracies). The Electoral College system, a feature of the US Constitution that not even American Libertarians worship, makes each state (except Maine and Nebraska) a winner-takes-all battle for electoral votes, having a multiplicative effect on Duvergerian logic.
A similar election for Chief Executive may impose some two-party discipline on Legco, perhaps allowing you to trade single member districts for the abolition of functional constituencies. Negotiating such a compromise with democratic elements in Hong Kong would allow you to meet international standards of universal suffrage without giving up control of the outcomes…provided you learn a couple more lessons from the US and create a system with lots of veto players, and make the right laws regarding campaign finance, and spending on political speech. More on that later…Originally published at: Whimsical Weltschmerz – An Open Letter to the CCP Concerning Universal Suffrage in HK (part I)
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