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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Surprise gains for Macau democrats
Macau aerial view
Macau's population is less than 500,000.

A pro-democracy party has made unexpected gains in elections in the Chinese territory of Macau, the first since Portugal handed the former colony back to China in 1999.

The New Democratic Macau Association polled over 20% of the votes and took two seats out of the 10 being contested.

Four were won by pro-Beijing candidates and four by pro-business candidates.

Macau's Chief Executive, Edmund Ho Monday, said the results showed that China's "one country, two systems" model was being effectively implemented.

China HK Macau map
The other 17 members of the legislative assembly are chosen by special interest groups or appointed by the chief executive.

The Association's leader, Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong, said he was surprised at his party's success.

"Before now, we were worried that we wouldn't even get one seat," he said.

Turnout down

The Association attracted 16,960 votes, or 20.95% of the total. In 1996, it won only 6,332 votes or 8.44% of the total ballot, and just one seat.

However, turnout was sharply down from 64% five years ago to 52%.

Macau's economy is dominated by gambling and tourism, making it a popular weekend retreat for residents from Hong Kong, many of them avid gamblers.

Macau was handed back to China in December 1999, ending 442 years of direct rule from Lisbon.

Like Hong Kong, the former Portuguese enclave enjoys a high degree of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" arrangement.

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