Gloves off in Super-seat battle
Emily Tsang, Colleen Lee and Peter So
Infighting could undercut the pan-democrats' efforts to capitalise on the woes of the pro-establishment camp and capture three of the five Legislative Council 'super seats', candidates and observers say.
The first-of-its-kind citywide poll in September is being seen as a potentially decisive showdown between the two leading political forces, the Beijing loyalists and parties supporting more liberal reforms.
Each is hoping to grab three of the seats and has put up their best-known names.
While most observers agree the scandals that have rocked the two-week-old administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have boosted the opposition's chances, ongoing rifts between pan-democratic parties are dampening their hopes of victory.
At issue is whether the groups that opposed the 2010 election reform that led to the creation of the super seats can mend fences with those that supported it - the Democratic Party and Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL).
Ma Ngok, a professor of government and public administration at Chinese University, said much would depend on whether the Civic Party decided to throw its support behind Democrats Albert Ho Chun-yan and James To Kun-sun and Frederick Fung Kin-kee of the ADPL.
'It could depend on how the Civic Party responds and whether they will support the pan-democratic camp,' Ma said. 'It seems unlikely the Civic Party will be helpful.'
The pan-democrats will be taking on a five-member ticket led by Starry Lee Wai-king of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, a single ticket of Lau Kong-wah, also of the DAB, and a three-candidate slate led by Chan Yuen-han of the Federation of Trade Unions.
The three teams registered yesterday.
Wan Chai district councillor and partner of celebrity lawyer and legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun, Pamela Peck, made a surprise entry to the race, meaning the number of tickets could potentially be seven.
Southern District councillor Paul Zimmerman, of the Civic Party, said he had resumed talks with his party to allow him to contest one of the seats, despite having been rejected.
The five 'super seats', in the functional constituency for district councils, will be decided by those who cannot vote in any other functional constituency.
But unlike geographical constituencies, in which candidates need only a certain percentage of the vote, in the citywide super seats, in which 3.2 million registered voters can cast ballots, the top five will win.
Assuming only half the eligible voters turn out, the three pan-democrats could only win if each candidate gets about 300,000 votes. This is theoretically possible since the pan-democratic candidates won about 900,000 votes - or 58 per cent of the overall vote - in the geographical constituency elections in 2008.
The Democratic Party, the largest of the pan-democratic groups, won 312,692 votes on its own in 2008. The Civic Party, the camp's second-largest party, got 207,000 votes. But the maths may be trickier, because not all voters would be backing the three pan-democrat candidates equally.
Supporters of the Civic Party, League of Social Democrats, People Power and Labour Party may not take part in the election at all. The radical People Power has been openly calling on its supporters to cast blank ballots in protest.
Under such circumstances, To admitted the prospects of him winning were relatively slim as he goes head to head against his party's chairman, Ho.
'After all, Ho was a chief executive candidate and is more famous in Hong Kong,' To said. 'And our party supporters are more likely to vote for the head.'
Ma said the rules of the super-seat election would also make it harder for the candidates to help out an ally from the same camp or for parties to split their votes between candidates.
'Candidates will have to count on their own fame to attract voters,' he said.
To predicted that notoriety would propel Ho, Lau and Chan into the first three seats and that he would battle against the pan-democrat Fung and the pro-establishment Lee for the last two.
'My guess is that the three of us, with relatively lesser-known names, will be fighting for the last two seats,' To said. 'One among us three will fail.'
Starry Lee also admitted she was one of those most likely to lose, and pointed out that infighting with Chan, a heavyweight from the pro-Beijing camp, might affect her chances of winning.
Lau said he and Lee would campaign in different areas to better leverage their votes.
'I will mainly rally for support in the New Territories, while Starry will concentrate on Kowloon and Hong Kong Island,' Lau said. 'We hope we can get even more votes that way.'
The number registered voters who are eligible to choose the winners of the five citywide super seats in September