22 April 2019
Woo Kwok-hing, Carrie Lam and John Tsang (from left) are at the mercy of a small circle of electors that make up the 1,200-member Election Committee. Photos: HKEJ
Woo Kwok-hing, Carrie Lam and John Tsang (from left) are at the mercy of a small circle of electors that make up the 1,200-member Election Committee. Photos: HKEJ

Here’s what will make the CE election unpredictable

In yesterday’s Academy Awards, La La Land was mistakenly announced winner for best picture instead of Moonlight.

The mistake was quite embarrassing, especially as the La La Land producers had begun to deliver their acceptance speeches.

In Hong Kong, chief executive candidate John Tsang posted a photo on social media as he watched the Oscars with his campaign team, saying, “If you don’t fight till the end, you will never know the final results.”

Tsang is an underdog in the chief executive election. He has been criticized by Beijing loyalists for insisting to join the race against the advice of the central government and labeled as an “agent” of the opposition camp.

Sill, Tsang leads in public opinions surveys. He is the most popular among the four contenders including Beijing favorite Carrie Lam.

But public support does not matter in the small-circle election for chief executive. Tsang needs the backing of pro-Beijing forces if he is to win the March 26 vote.

A simple majority from the 1,200 members of the Election Committee wins the election. That means 601 votes on top of his 160 nominations.

On Monday, Tsang’s candidacy was confirmed by the Registration and Electoral Office, making him the first qualified contender.

Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing officially made it with 180 nominations.

Tsang’s 160 nominations showed that the majority of his supporters are from pan-democratic members of the Election Committee.

Notable backers include Democratic Party lawmakers, the Professional Teachers’ Union, IT Vision, the accounting sector, as well as the Liberal Party’s James Tien, Selina Chow and Felix Chung, and Hopewell Holdings managing director Thomas Wu.

Tsang won about 35 nominations from the so-called pro-Beijing or pro-establishment camp.

With 125 nominations from the democrats, Tsang must work hard to convince others on the committee that he can make it come election day.

It is reasonable to assume that he could win more votes from the business sector after the Liberal Party nominated him on the record.

Hopewell Group’s Wu also provides some hint as to how Hong Kong’s business scions might vote.

Tsang needs more than 400 votes from across the spectrum to win the election, and now he must bet on his popularity to lure more voters under the secret ballot system.

It’s quite clear that Tsang needs all of the pro-Beijing camp’s votes to achieve his goal.

The Election Committee is composed of 325 members from the opposition and 869 members from the pro-establishment camp.

If more than 270 committee members don’t vote for Carrie Lam, there could be a possibility that Lam would get less than 600 votes and lose the election.

And if all the democrats and the 270 members from the pro-establishment voted for Tsang, he could marginally bag the election with 605 votes, based on the assumption that all the democrats did not vote for another candidate.

Against this backdrop, it could be quite difficult to interpret what Woo meant when he said his participation could put Lam away.

He can only stop Lam from winning the election by collecting all 325 votes from the opposition camp. Also, Tsang would have to deny Lam a substantial number of votes, which is mission impossible.

The pro-Beijing media has been critical of Tsang since he declared his intention to run for the top job, using radical language to describe Tsang as an agent of democrats.

By contrast, it has seldom directly targeted Woo. It seems that the pro-Beijing media is echoing Beijing’s supposed preference for Woo if Lam’s pubic approval rating remains low in the coming weeks.

It is expected that the pro-Beijing camp and Beijing’s mouthpieces in Hong Kong will escalate their attacks on Tsang now that he is an official candidate.

But that would only cement Tsang’s public approval. Hong Kong people are resolutely opposed to Beijing’s meddling in the election.

Don’t forget that the chief executive election is a secret ballot. No one is required to disclose their preference, unlike in the nomination process.

That said, there could be any number of electors who will defy Beijing and vote their conscience, bowing to public pressure, which could make the election outcome unpredictable.

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EJ Insight writer

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