Having failed with both a hardline stance and a soft approach to sway Beijing, the pan-democrats may still have a chance to play its card: take it first and then cast a blank vote.
Although this is seemingly passive, the power of such a protest vote will enable the pan-democrats and their supporters to say no to the “Beijing nominate, Hong Kong vote” framework.
Given Beijing has tightened the screw on political reform for the city, many pragmatic Hongkongers might want to take it first and then gradually seek incremental steps toward universal suffrage.
This is what the government is selling: “Your vote. Gotta have it.”
The central government’s electoral reform proposal means many in Hong Kong will have no freedom of choice to pick their leader as there will be no public nomination.
All pan-democratic lawmakers have made up their mind to veto Beijing’s proposal in the Legislative Council next year.
But is there another option for them?
There is still at least half a year for the government to run its propaganda machine to persuade the public to accept Beijing’s framework.
The pan-democrats can stand firm and wait for veto time.
They can also consider a plan B to avoid being sidelined from the debate on the implementation of the 2017 election framework.
If they take it first and then kick off a blank vote campaign, it may offer people the chance to say no to the candidates selected by the small-circle nominating committee without depriving them of the right to vote.
Such a strategy should not be seen as the pan-democrats kowtowing to Beijing. Rather, it could be a powerful means to trigger a restart of the chief executive election if there are enough blank votes.
Simon Young Ngai-man, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, suggested that blank votes could play a role in the chief executive election. If the percentage of blank votes reaches a certain level, the election should be restarted, he said.
Of course, the pan-democrats would be hesitant about this strategy because Beijing and the pro-establishment camp will use all means to persuade people not to cast a blank vote.
If it turns out that the percentage of blank votes is low, the winning candidate will have a strong mandate.
But there is no harm to consider this gambit.
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