Two campaign officers for a Macau lawmaker have been found guilty of offering meals and transportation to voters during the territory’s 2013 elections.
The defendants campaigned for Chan Meng-kam, who led the political party United Citizens Association of Macau (ACUM) to secure three of 14 directly elected seats in a landslide victory in the 2013 election.
Macau’s anti-corruption body was alerted to possible election fraud after an officer received a campaign call from a local housewife, according to Macau Daily Times. The woman had been instructed by an ACUM clerk to ask party members to bribe their families into voting for Chan.
Those who voted in favour of Chan’s party would be offered free transportation to the ballot station and meals at an upscale Chinese restaurant.
The ACUM employee and housewife were subsequently sentenced to one year and six months and one year and three months in jail respectively on bribery charges on Friday.
They were also stripped of political rights for two years, meaning that they cannot vote or stand in elections, according to Macau newspapers.
Jason Chao Teng-hei of New Macau Association, a pro-democracy political party, told HKFP that it was unlikely the ruling would deter future instances of electoral fraud.
“The candidates can easily get away with it because it is difficult to prove that they are directly involved in bribery,” said Chao. “Only people who work under them are liable.”
Chao said that offering gifts and free services to voters is common in Macau. “These groups held lucky draws and gave away expensive gifts like iPhones during campaigns.”
“Groups like ACUM are very resourceful and can afford to provide all kinds of social services to Macau people in non-election years,” added Chao. “They have basically replaced the role of the government.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, a spokesperson for ACUM said that its members had been unfairly targeted through selective law enforcement.
The spokesperson said that its campaign staffers had been told that the party would not provide free meals, and questioned why the anti-corruption agency did not look into other banquets held on the same day as ACUM’s banquet. He added that the agency’s use of false identities in investigations was inappropriate.
None of the three ACUM lawmakers were present at the press conference.
This is not the first time ACUM members have been found guilty of bribery. ACUM candidate Wu Lin was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment after being convicted of bribery during the 2005 legislative election.
ACUM lawmaker Chan Meng-kam reportedly said at that time that the Macau government should be fair in enforcing the law against electoral fraud by investigating other political parties.
Chan, who moved to Macau from China’s Fujian Province in the 1980s, is the owner of Golden Dragon Group, which runs a variety of business including casinos, hotels and property projects.
He is also a member of China’s top advisory body and Macau’s core policy making body for the chief executive.
ACUM has close ties to Fujian and is an influential political party in Macau, which is home to more than 200,000 Fujian descents. Macau has a population of 640,000.
The increasing political influence of groups with mainland ties has raised concerns among supporters of democracy in the Special Administrative Region. Another influential group affiliated with the Chinese city of Jiangmen and Macau’s gambling industry won two of 14 directly elected seats in the 2013 election.