“Tourists had a tough time finding taxis yesterday in Macau, but you could enjoy a free ride to dozens of spots, if you knew the trick.

Free rides and free meals were just two of the gimmicks supporters adopted in their effort to get people to vote in the city’s legislative elections, held from 9am to 9pm, to return 12 directly elected lawmakers.

Fifty-nine per cent of registered voters – 148,977 people – had cast their ballots by 9pm when the polls closed. Turnout was 1.2 per cent higher than four years ago.

Results were expected to be announced early this morning.

With counting completed at 10 of 28 polling stations (including one in jail), heading the voting were the teams led by Kwan Tsui-hang, of the pro-government Federation of Trade Unions; democrat Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong; Fujian community leader Chan Meng-kam; Ho Ion-sang, from the pro-government General Union of Neighbourhood Associations; and Angela Leong On-kei, fourth wife of casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun.

Some voters expressed concerns about corruption in Macau, pointing to Ao Man-long, the former secretary for transport and public works, who was jailed for 28-1/2 years last year for bribe-taking and money laundering.

Several election teams mobilised fleets of taxis and private cars to send voters to 27 poll stations across the city. The catch was that you had to vote for their candidates.

Driving voters to poll stations was permissible, the Electoral Affairs Commission said, but canvassing during the trip was forbidden.

Many taxis gathered at the Landmark Hotel and the Fisherman’s Wharf, both owned by tycoon David Chow Kam-fai and whose wife Melinda Chan Mei-yi headed a list of candidates, but their drivers declined to take passengers.

This correspondent posed as a voter and asked to get into one of the cabs, but a man organising the affair said I would first have to agree to support Chan’s team.

The cab was shared by a middle-aged woman who wore an orange sticker in support of Chan’s “team orange”, but she later removed it, saying it probably wouldn’t be allowed when casting her ballot. The woman said she had already had free tea and dim sum at the Landmark Hotel.

Over at the Fisherman’s Wharf, people could eat for one pataca but they were then asked to head to polling stations and support Chan.

Hundreds of casino workers from Ho’s gaming company SJM Holdings were bused to polling stations to support Leong.

Only 12 of the 29 seats in Macau’s legislature are directly elected; seven are appointed by the chief executive and 10 lawmakers represent functional constituencies.

Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah appointed Jose Chui Sai-peng, a younger brother of chief executive-elect Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on, as a lawmaker in 2005.

At the polling station at Our Lady of Fatima Girls’ School in the north of Macau Peninsula, Tsoi Man-tat, 72, shook slightly as he walked slowly forward with the help of his wife. Nearly falling over when he missed a step, Tsoi said he had insisted in coming to vote despite his severe heart problems. He said he wanted good legislators who would keep corruption out of government. “Macau is progressing, but it’s bad that we had corrupt officials such as Ao Man-long,” Tsoi said. “I hope there won’t be any more corruption.”

Cheong U, the head of the Commission Against Corruption of Macau, said the number of corruption complaints in relation to the election was sharply lower than for the 2005 poll. The commission had received 231 complaints concerning the election by Friday, compared to 440 for the 2005 poll, Cheong said.

Four election-related cases had been put on file by the commission for investigation this year, compared to 13 for the 2005 poll, he said.

The commission received 56 complaints about irregularities yesterday, down 40 per cent on election day four years ago.

It said many complaints involved illegal electioneering, with one man being arrested.

A few alleged that some candidate groups had engaged in vote buying, but they were proved to be untrue after investigation.

On Friday, graft-busters arrested a number of people who were allegedly offering voters 500 to 700 patacas to cast their ballots for certain candidates. ”

In South China Morning Post.

Assim são as “eleições” em Macau…

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