The District Council election is just around the corner, but politicians and the general public don’t seem to be very excited about it.
As the first general elections after last year’s pro-democracy protests, the results of next month’s exercise will have a strong bearing on the Legislative Council election next year and help shape the political landscape of the city in the next few years.
However, political parties from both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps have failed to drum up public enthusiasm for the election. In fact, more than 60 seats controlled by Beijing loyalists are uncontested.
But it matters a lot for the pan-democratic camp to encourage people to participate in the elections.
The results of past elections show that the higher the voters’ turnout rate, the more seats pan-democrats won.
So to prevent the pro-Beijing camp from controlling the district councils, pan-democrat supporters should be encouraged to actively campaign and cast their ballots in the upcoming exercise.
According to a study conducted by scholar Leung Kai-chi, the number of people casting their vote in the upcoming District Council elections will have a direct bearing on the number of seats occupied by pan-democrats and Beijing loyalists.
In the 2011 District Council elections in Central and Western District, for example, the number of votes secured by democrats was 18,195, compared with 23,766 votes for the pro-Beijing camp.
But in the Legislative Council election in 2012, the democrats garnered 29,028 votes, while the pro-establishment camp secured 27,931.
Why the difference between the two elections? It must be related to how supporters of both sides treated the District Council and Legco elections.
Pro-establishment supporters appear to have been more actively involved in both elections than their pan-democrat counterparts as shown in the difference in the number of votes between the two elections.
For the pro-Beijing camp, the difference was only 4,165 votes, while the democrats had a gap of 10,833 votes.
If those more than 10,000 democracy supporters cast their votes in the 2011 election, the results would have been a lot different.
What does this imply?
Supporters of the pan-democratic camp have little interest in the local district elections, but are very active in the Legco elections.
Based on the study, the pan-democrats should have gained control of Central and Western District in the 2011 District Council elections. But because their lack of enthusiasm, they now only hold four of the 15 council seats in the district.
Based on the results of the 2012 Legco elections, the democrats should have won 13 seats in the District Council elections in the district, rather than just four.
In other words, the democrats lost most of the seats not because they don’t have supporters in the district but because their supporters did not cast their votes.
Again, based on the results of the 2012 Legco elections, the democrats should have controlled 17 of the 18 district councils across the city, and won all the seats in three district councils, namely Yau Tsim Mong, Sham Shui Po and Sha Tin.
On the other hand, pro-Beijing camp could only hold a majority of the seats in the Yuen Long district council.
However, as Leung said in his research, all these did not happen in the previous election.
Democrats seem to be unaware of their electoral strength and continue to blame the massive resources of the pro-Beijing camp, which have pulled all the stops when it comes to providing giveaways and dinners to local communities in exchange for their support.
The truth is that the democrats refuse to compete with the pro-Beijing camp in the local level. They even refuse to determine why their supporters are not as enthusiastic about the district council elections as they are in the Legco elections.
The contaminated water scandal is a good example of why democrats should maintain a strong voice in the district councils to advance the interests of local communities.
If the democrat politicians did not pursue the investigation, the government, along with the pro-establishment camp, would have preferred to keep the issue under wraps.
The democrats and their supporters should start taking the District Council elections seriously.
Hong Kong people need their voices to be heard in the different levels of the political structure, and this means that the democratic camp should maintain their strong presence and influence in both the district councils and the legislative council.
Every battlefield will help determine Hong Kong’s political landscape, and it is the pan-democrats’ duty to win every battle as they pursue the campaign for a better life for our people.
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