Why DAB can still turn the tables on pan-dems in 2020 Legco race

November 29, 2019 17:10
DAB members led by chairwoman Starry Lee (4th left) hold a news conference on Monday, following the party's huge defeat in Sunday's District Council elections. Photo: Bloomberg

In Sunday's District Council elections, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the leading pro-Beijing party in the city, suffered an “avalanche-like” defeat, with their candidates winning only 21 DC seats, down from the original 119.

Even before the election, the party had expected that the odds would be pretty much against their candidates largely because of the prevailing anti-government sentiment among the public as a result of the protest movement.

But as it turned out, the election results were far worse than their projections.

In particular, they were caught completely off guard by the fact that a number of their “dual-office holders” (i.e., district councillors serving as lawmakers at the same time) were defeated, not to mention that some of their DC chairpersons who have strong support base in their constituencies also lost their seats.

Given that the DC race results have often been regarded as an indicator of what would happen in the Legislative Council elections in the following year, the disastrous performance of the pro-establishment camp on Sunday has inevitably raised grave concerns about its prospects in the 2020 Legco race.

However, although the Legco elections are less than a year away, a DAB figure said that things might not be as bad as some people think.

The source pointed out that based on their preliminary assessment, the DAB actually recorded a 30 percent growth in the number of votes their candidates have garnered across the various districts in the city.

In Kowloon West, some DAB candidates even took over 60 percent more votes than they did back in 2015. Yet even so, the source said, they were still beaten by their pro-democracy rivals who did even better – the increase in the number of votes they got was much higher.

Besides, the Legco race is a different ballgame, because it follows the voting system of proportional representation, as opposed to the “single-seat, single-vote” system adopted in the District Council elections.

As such, the source said, as long as the DAB is able to consolidate its hold on its support base and maintain its vote totals in the five geographical constituencies, it wouldn’t be too difficult for the party’s candidates to win at least one seat in each of those constituencies in the Legco race next September.

Moreover, the key to success in the Legco elections is vote allocation, something that is considered a definite strength of the DAB but a fatal weakness of the pan-dems, he added.

What is more, he estimated that the rise of political rookies in various districts could give rise to infighting within the pro-democracy camp next year, as these young and new faces are eagerly eyeing Legco seats as well.

In a nutshell, according to a number of DAB figures, the results of the DC race this year didn’t reverse the overall vote share between the pan-dems and the pro-establishment camp, which still stands at a 6:4 ratio.

As such, the DAB’s prospects in next year's Legco elections cannot be inferred from its fiasco in the DC race, the sources said.

Nevertheless, some DAB members admitted that they may have to fine-tune their election tactics next year.

For example, rather than sending three lists of candidates to run in the New Territories West as the party did in 2016, the DAB may consider fielding only two lists the next time around, those members said.

But while it may be easy for the DAB to adjust its election tactics, changing its political stance in order to swim with the tide of mainstream public opinion will definitely prove a lot more difficult.

The reason is that as a pro-establishment party, the DAB has to continue to throw its weight behind the government no matter what, a party member conceded.

After all, the same source said, the relationship between the pro-Beijing camp and the SAR administration is pretty much a symbiotic one.

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

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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