Date
21 January 2017
The Liberal Party only secured four seats in the Legco election, but if it breaks ranks with other pro-Beijing parties on particular issues, that can reduce the total number of votes the government can secure to a razor-thin majority over the opposition.
The Liberal Party only secured four seats in the Legco election, but if it breaks ranks with other pro-Beijing parties on particular issues, that can reduce the total number of votes the government can secure to a razor-thin majority over the opposition.

Liberal Party and Democratic Party: The decisive minority

With the Legislative Council election over, let’s take stock of the election results and assess their implications for the political scene in our city over the next four years.

The voter turnout hit a record 58 percent, which fits the political pattern: whenever there is a mass social movement in Hong Kong, the voter turnout is always higher than usual in the election that follows.

Moreover, unlike in previous elections, tens of thousands of first-time voters, many of whom just over the age of 18, flexed their political muscles for the very first time, resulting in the victory of half a dozen young and first-time candidates.

This election marks the beginning of a new chapter in local politics in which young voters have become a decisive force.

Parties across the political spectrum will have to compete for their support in order to prevail.

In this election the proportion of votes for the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps remained at a 60/40 split.

However, the gap between the percentage of votes gained by the moderate and radical wings within the pro-democracy camp narrowed substantially.

In the previous election, votes cast for radical candidates accounted for around one-third of the total number of votes gained by the pro-democracy camp.

But in this election radical or pro-independence candidates snapped up almost half of the votes cast for the pro-democracy camp as a whole, suggesting that our society could be on a path towards radicalization.

In future elections we are likely to see a 40/30/30 split among the pro-Beijing camp, the moderate pan-democrats and radical groups.

Two parties are likely to play the decisive minority in the next Legco, and they are the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party.

As far as the Liberal Party is concerned, their total number of seats dropped from five to four in this election.

Four seats might sound insignificant compared to other pro-establishment parties such as the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong.

However, if the Liberal Party breaks ranks with other pro-establishment parties on particular issues, the total number of votes the government can secure in order to get its bills passed will be down to only 35, just a razor-thin majority over the opposition.

It is definitely not reassuring for the administration.

Likewise, even though the Democratic Party only holds seven seats, its stance may still prove critical.

That’s because if the government can win over the Democrats along with the pro-establishment camp on particular policy initiatives such as political reforms, it will be able to secure a two-thirds majority (7+39=46) in the legislature, thereby giving it enough votes to get its proposals passed.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 13.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

CG

HKEJ contributor

EJI Weekly Newsletter