Separation of Powers and Universal Suffrage
16 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2014 Last revised: 3 Jun 2015
Date Written: September 20, 2014
The introduction of universal suffrage for the selection of the Hong Kong Chief Executive is often portrayed as the answer to the problems afflicting the executive-legislative relationship in Hong Kong. But even in the increasingly unlikely event that a consensus can be reached on the necessary electoral methods, the introduction of universal suffrage would, by itself, do little to address some of the structural problems that spring from the strong system of separation of powers — and, particularly, separation of persons — that exists under the Hong Kong Basic Law.
The near total separation of membership of the executive and legislature in Hong Kong weakens the political party system and creates the potential for deadlock between the two branches of the political structure. Such structural issues will need to be addressed alongside the introduction of universal suffrage.
If the introduction of a parliamentary system is considered too radical a solution in Hong Kong, such reforms should instead focus on finding the maximum cross membership possible within the present constitutional structure, and improving channels of communication between the executive and legislature. Such reforms would also offer hope for addressing some of the problems currently afflicting the executive-legislative relationship in Hong Kong, even if consensus cannot be reached on the introduction of universal suffrage.
Note: Revised (June 2015) to incorporate official Chinese government position on link between universal suffrage and effective governance in Hong Kong.
Keywords: Separation of Powers, Hong Kong, Universal Suffrage, Constitutional Law
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