19 April 2019
Despite losing the New Territories East by-election in February, the DAB should have little difficulty keeping its existing Legco seats in the general election in September. Photo: HKEJ
Despite losing the New Territories East by-election in February, the DAB should have little difficulty keeping its existing Legco seats in the general election in September. Photo: HKEJ

Election prospects for the pro-establishment camp in September

In the last Legislative Council election in 2012, the pro-establishment camp took 43 seats, four seats short of a two-thirds majority.

While it snapped up more than half the seats in the functional constituencies, it won only 17 out of 35 in the geographical constituencies.

It appears that what Beijing would like to see this year is the pro-establishment camp taking more than half the seats in the geographical constituencies, so that it can hold a two-thirds majority in the legislature.

A two-thirds majority will not only allow it to amend the existing Rules of Procedure to ban filibustering but will also guarantee the passage of any political reform proposal put forward by the government in future.

As far as the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the leading party in the pro-establishment camp, is concerned, its election prospects are pretty promising, and it is almost a foregone conclusion that it will have zero difficulty in keeping its existing nine seats in the September election.

It is possible that it will even be able to take one or two extra seats if its candidates manage to coordinate well with the Federation of Trade Unions, another major party in the pro-establishment camp.

The only variable facing the DAB is probably that the political awakening and enthusiasm of first-time young voters may boost overall turnout in the September election.

That would raise the threshold for getting elected for each list of candidates under the system of proportional representation.

In previous elections, a high turnout usually gave the pan-democrats an advantage over the pro-establishment camp.

However, I bet the biggest concern of the DAB right now is neither the challenge posed by the pan-democrats nor the rising popularity of the so-called “paratroopers” — young candidates emerging from the Occupy movement — but, rather, possible politically motivated sabotage mounted by the Liberal Party.

For example, the Liberals may send candidates to run in all five geographical constituencies against other pro-establishment parties, so as to embarrass Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The Liberal Party has always been regarded as a wild card within the pro-establishment camp, and its former leader James Tien Pei-chun is considered a “bad boy” who doesn’t always toe Beijing’s line.

However, judging from the recent abortive attempt by members of the Heung Yee Kuk to set up their own political party, I am pretty sure Tien will eventually be brought into line by Beijing.

As far as the functional constituencies are concerned, the distribution of power between the pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camp is likely to remain largely the same after the election.

Nevertheless, it is rather uncertain whether Charles Mok Nai-kwong, a pan-democrat representing the information technology sector, can get re-elected this time, because rumour has it that a massive campaign led by some pro-establishment figures has been secretly underway in an attempt to unseat him.

In the last Legco election, the pan-democrats won three out of the five “super seats”.

However, the prospects for their re-election this time are anything but promising, thanks to their own infighting and the Democratic Party’s failure to appeal to young voters in the post-Occupy era.

Unless the major parties in the pan-democratic camp are able to resolve their differences and coordinate well with one another, chances are they might lose at least one of those seats to their pro-establishment opponents in September.

In conclusion, I believe the pro-establishment camp may be able to win one or two more seats in either the geographical or functional constituencies, but its chances of winning a two-thirds majority in Legco are still remote.

And even if the pro-establishment camp did manage to gain a two-thirds majority, I don’t think it would automatically boost Leung’s chances of re-election in 2017.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 4.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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