Pan-dems eyeing over half of DC seats

October 28, 2019 13:12
The Electoral Affairs Commission has sought to assure the public that the District Council elections will be conducted in a fair, open and honest manner. Photo: HKEJ

Amid the civil unrest, there are a lot of uncertainties hanging over the District Council elections scheduled for Nov. 24.

Although Barnabas Fung Wah, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC), has sought to assure the public that the polls will be conducted in a fair, open and honest manner, a recent paper submitted to the Legislative Council by the government revealed that a crisis management committee has been set up with regard to the election.

According to the document, the panel may advise the EAC on postponing the DC race in cases of “riot, open violence or any danger to public health or safety”.

Meanwhile, the pan-democrats, based on their current assessment, believe that if the elections take place as scheduled, their camp will be able to win more than half of the contested seats.

In the upcoming elections, 452 candidates will be voted into office across the 18 districts of Hong Kong. And there are only about 130 incumbent members of the District Councils who don't belong to the pro-establishment bloc.

But given the still raging public resentment at the police and the intense anti-government sentiment in society, the majority of voters are going to cast their votes based on the political stance of candidates rather than their track record in public office, according to a source coordinating the pan-democratic campaign.

As such, voters are likely to prefer even a lazy pan-dem or a political rookie to a very hard-working pro-establishment candidate, the source said.

One can actually refer to the 2003 DC race results for reference, the source said.

In that election, the pan-democratic camp fielded 226 candidates to run for the 400 popularly elected seats, and eventually won more than 150 of them, thanks to the prevailing pro-democracy sentiment among voters in the wake of administration moves to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law at the time.

And since no pro-establishment incumbents are going to return uncontested this time, the pan-democratic camp remains optimistic at this stage that it can take over half of the seats as per its projection.

The more upbeat pan-dems estimate that they may be able to win 270 to 280 seats.

Now, if the pan-dems are able to win over half of the seats in the upcoming DC race, they can easily secure the District Council (First) of the functional constituency in the 2020 Legco elections.

As far as the election committee for the chief executive election is concerned, whether or not the pan-dems will be able to secure 117 of the 1,200 seats will depend on the geographical distribution of the seats they will win.

In other words, even if the pan-dems do reign supreme in this DC race, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to take all the 117 seats of the chief executive election committee.

The pan-dem source said that although the government could be paving the way for the postponement of the DC elections by setting up the crisis management committee, it is unlikely to substantially affect the election outcome.

That's because under the existing law, any postponement can only last for no more than 14 days.

However, the pan-dem source said the government still hasn’t entirely ruled out invoking the emergency law again, for example, to extend the term of office of the existing DC members until “the time is ripe" for another election.

Another pan-democratic lawmaker said there is a concern that some pro-establishment organizations or Beijing’s Liaison Office might orchestrate some incidents that endanger public security on the polling day in order to create a legitimate excuse for the crisis management committee to kill the entire election.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 26

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.