Date
15 December 2018
Pan-democrats, who suffered a major setback in Sunday’s Legco by-election, need to find a leader who can unite the various groups within the bloc. The task won’t be easy, observers say. Photo: HKEJ
Pan-democrats, who suffered a major setback in Sunday’s Legco by-election, need to find a leader who can unite the various groups within the bloc. The task won’t be easy, observers say. Photo: HKEJ

Pan-dems face a leadership problem

On Monday, the pan-democrats held a press conference to apologize to their supporters following the camp’s defeat in the Legislative Council by-election for a Kowloon West seat.

The pan-dems vowed to reflect on their shortcomings, dust themselves off and start afresh, heeding some lessons from Sunday’s electoral setback.

However, there is a problem.

Who among them is capable of uniting the increasingly fragmented opposition groups and facilitating dialogue among the various factions so as to reach a consensus on the way forward?

Some pan-dems, as a matter of fact, have conceded that at this point, it is very difficult to find an individual qualified and convincing enough to lead the entire pro-democracy bloc.

It is because, they said, the various factions in the camp seem to believe there is no single individual among the opposition who can represent all within the group.

Unlike back in the 1980s, when iconic figures like Szeto Wah and Martin Lee Chu-ming were the undisputed leaders of the pro-democracy movement, the pan-dems today lack someone who has enough political energy and prestige to pull the deeply divided democracy camp together and facilitate consensus among the different groups.

As far as the pro-establishment camp is concerned, it also has its own headaches despite the bloc’s two successive by-election victories this year.

The reason is that after the triumphs of Vincent Cheng Wing-shun and Chan Hoi-yan, the establishment camp now has four members in the Legco from Kowloon West, out of the total of six that the geographical constituency is entitled to, giving rise to a problem of “overcrowding”.

While it is widely expected that Chan is likely to seek re-election in the 2020 Legco race, Ann Chiang Lai-wan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), who is relatively older than the other three pro-Beijing lawmakers in Kowloon West, may have to quit.

Chiang told us on Monday that she would be ready to quit at any time so that the newer generation can take the seat. However, she didn’t state unequivocally that she intends to step down.

Even if Chiang steps aside, the pro-Beijing camp’s vote totals and support base in Kowloon West may still be stretched to a risky limit if it fields the incumbent Priscilla Leung Mei-fun of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA), and Chan and Cheng will also run in the 2020 race simultaneously.

That being said, it is not ruled out that one of them may have to switch to another geographical constituency in order not to undermine the re-election prospects of the other two pro-establishment incumbents.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 27

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JC/RC

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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