The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) announced on Thursday (Sept. 14) that it will hold by-elections on March 11 next year to fill the four vacant seats in the Legislative Council representing the geographical constituencies of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West and New Territories East, as well as the functional constituency of the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sector.
As far as the two seats left vacant by the ousted localist lawmakers Lau Siu-lai and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung are concerned, the EAC said they will be filled by a separate by-election after the legal proceedings regarding their appeals over their disqualification are over.
The pro-democracy camp, as expected, welcomed the decision. Holding two separate by-elections instead of one would definitely work in its favor, as it means competition for the seats will be on a single-seat-single-vote basis.
And given the so-called “6:4 golden ratio”, i.e., the long-standing voting pattern under which pro-democracy candidates are always able to take more popular votes than their pro-Beijing opponents, the single-seat-single-vote system would give the pro-democracy camp a definite advantage over the pro-establishment camp.
While the pan-democrats are happy with the arrangement, the pro-Beijing camp was rather disappointed. Some even suspected that the appeals filed by Lau and Long Hair were indeed just a dirty trick to prevent the government from filling all the six vacant seats in one go.
However, while holding two separate by-elections to fill the vacant seats might give the pro-democracy camp an advantage, the deep divisions and heavy infighting between the moderate pan-democrats and the relatively radical localist faction could offset whatever advantage they might have.
The single-seat-single-vote system would only work in the democrats’ favor only if its members agreed to field a single candidate for each seat. But that is easier said than done, given that the moderate pan-democrats and the localists don’t see eye to eye.
Meanwhile, if Lau and Long Hair eventually win in the by-elections, and the court also rules in their favor, that will inevitably give rise to an intriguing constitutional issue: What are they going to do with their dual seats?
As such, we are not optimistic about the pro-democracy camp reclaiming all its lost territories in the LegCo by-elections next year. In particular, the odds are heavily against its winning in the functional constituency of the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sector, which over the years has remained a pro-Beijing stronghold.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 15
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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