Legislative Assembly President Ho Iat Seng has decided to run in the Chief Executive election later this year. He says his priority will be livelihood issues as well as promoting Macau’s economic diversification and its participation in the development of the Greater Bay Area.
In declaring himself the first candidate in the race to become Macau’s next Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng ended months of public speculation and started a new chapter in his distinguished public career.
The timing of his announcement is important. In addition to this being the election for Macau’s third Chief Executive, following on from the incumbent, Fernando Chui, and his predecessor, Edmund Ho, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Macau’s return to China.
The path forward for Ho, currently the President of the Legislative Assembly, is well laid-out. First, he must resign his position on the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, where he has served for the past 19 years (this was happening as Macau Inc. was going to press). Then, on June 16, the 400 members of the Chief Executive Election Committee will be chosen. This committee will elect the chief executive sometime toward the end of August. That person will then assume office at the end of the year, after being commissioned by the Central Government.
The Election Committee comprises members representing four sectors: 1) Industrial, commercial and financial; 2) Cultural, educational, professional and sports; 3) Labor, social services and religions; 4) Representatives chosen from among members of Macau’s Legislative Assembly, local deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) and local members of the National People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Ho said in public when accepting the media interviews, if elected, he would focus on livelihood issues and diversification of the economy, as well as the integration of Macau into the Greater Bay Area.
The veteran businessman and politician first indicated his intention to run for the city’s top job earlier this year, when he told reporters on February 13 that he was “actively and prudently” considering it. He also said that, based on his political experience, he was not afraid to “get himself dirty in the hot kitchen.” Finally, on April 18, Ho said he had “provisionally” decided to run in the election after “studying the matter with many friends”.
It is not certain that Ho will run unopposed. No other candidate had announced their intention at time of this magazine going to press. Nevertheless, Ho said he would start organizing his campaign team and establish his formal political platform once he had been approved to run. His work at the Legislative Assembly would continue in the meantime, and Ho said he was determined to “run a clean office” based on Macau’s electoral law.
When asked about his political ambition, Ho was unequivocal, telling reporters that he was sure he would be able to “carry the weight” and that he would hold himself accountable to his supporters. His platform would be based on two primary objectives, he said. The first would be to improve people’s livelihoods. Having worked in legislation for a decade, he had heard many stories regarding social issues and, he said, he would try his best work on addressing these in the executive branch of the government. The second is to look toward the future, whereby he can promote the SAR’s integration into the Greater Bay Area, which would support the economy’s diversification.
Ho said his experience at the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress, and the Legislative Assembly of Macau, would give him a unique perspective in addressing issues related to the legal systems of the mainland and Macau. This will be important, because Greater Bay Area participation will require Macau to develop its legal system in line with the development of those of the other cities in the region. This will ensure the SAR is able to further grow, economically and physically. In his opinion, he said, Macau is so constrained by its small land mass that geographical expansion has become a necessity.
Ho’s generation, he said, has experienced the substantial benefits of the country’s Reform and Opening policy, which filled them with confidence about the potential of the Greater Bay Area. This was why so many of his friends had urged him to combine his long experience in lawmaking in the mainland and Macau, thereby spurring and smoothing the integration process and laying a better foundation for Macau’s future development.
Ho emphasized his background as a businessman, dating back to more than 30 years ago when People’s Communes on the mainland first began to be reformed through the introduction of the Household Responsibility System and the Industrial Responsibility System. That created the opening for economic development based on capital investment and professional management. Over the decades, he has been focused on familiarizing himself with various aspects of governance systems on the mainland. Macau’s future development must be driven by its business community taking bold initiatives to explore new opportunities, he said.
Indeed, Ho comes from a distinguished family in Macau’s history. His grandfather was the founder of the newspaper that became Macau Daily News, while his father, Ho Tin, founded their industrial company that supplied vitally needed goods on the mainland in the 1960s and 1970s.
Ho is clearly aware of the challenges he faces. Earlier this year, various public commentators suggested that Macau’s chief executive needed to have government administrative experience. At the time, Ho said he recognized this was a relative weakness, as he has never held a position in any government agency, despite his impressive records in both the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Council. However, Ho said that his experience in the Legislative Assembly had involved dealing with various aspects of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, which have allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the government’s functions and responsibilities. The more important thing for a chief executive, he said, is to form a good team as “it is impossible for one person to finish all the many tasks”. In Macau, making good use of public servants is the best option for achieving effective governance, he said.
At time of going to press, Macau was gripped by speculation as to whether anyone else would declare their intention to run against Ho. The last time a Chief Executive election had more than a single candidate was Macau’s first, in May 1999, when Edmund Ho was challenged by Stanley Ao. In the next three elections, there was just one candidate. This time around, it remains to be seen if the current Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Lionel Leong, will stand against Ho. He had previously said he was “considering” the idea.
Ho himself would not be drawn on such speculation. When asked about possible rivals, he said only that “if there’s a competition”, he would always “welcome the challenge”.
Ho Iat Seng
Born in June 1957, in Macau
Member of the 13th National People’s Congress and the Standing
Committee of the National People’s Congress;
President of the 6th Legislative Assembly of Macau;
Member of the Executive Council of Macau from 2004 to 2009
Vice president of the Macau Chamber of Commerce
Permanent President of the Industrial Association of Macau
In 1999, Industrial & Commercial Merit Medal, awarded by
Governor of Macau.
In 2001, Industrial & Commercial Merit Medal, awarded by
Government of Macau SAR.
In 2009, Honorable Medal of Golden Lotus Flower, awarded by
Government of Macau SAR.
Managing director of Ho Tin Industrial Ltd.
Chief executive of Ho Tin Industrial Ltd.