HONG KONG: The Chinese gambling enclave of Macau heads to the polls on Sunday, with democrats expected to make little headway against pro-Beijing candidates riding a wave of support thanks to a booming economy and generous handouts.
The city of 590,000 has been transformed by the casino industry which is now the world’s biggest, overtaking Las Vegas in revenues and employing some 23 percent of the total workforce.
The former Portuguese colony is holding its fourth legislative elections since it was handed over to Chinese rule in 1999, but since a surprise strong showing in the inaugural 2001 vote the democracy camp has struggled to attract support.
“This time the pan-democrats are facing an uphill battle,” said Hong Kong Institute of Education Social Sciences department head Sonny Lo.
A strengthening pro-Beijing camp is providing stiff competition, along with special interest groups including candidates with casino backgrounds who are becoming increasingly popular and eyeing gains in Sunday’s vote.
“They have lots of constituents, they have a lot of casino staff members and employees, and also the casinos play a crucial role in the economy and society of Macau,” Lo said.