D-Day for democracy in HK
VOTERS have been urged to cast their ballots today to ensure the SAR's first Legislative Council is both representative and able to do its job well.
Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang yesterday appealed to the 2.8 million registered voters to turn out.
'The more voters, the more representative our first Legislative Council will be,' she said, as candidates were making final preparations for the 15 hours of balloting.
'The Government has done its best to encourage people to vote. I urge everyone to make sure the first Legco functions well.' Polling opens at 7.30 am and closes at 10.30 pm.
Voters are to return 50 legislators from among 156 candidates in a three-tiered election - geographical and functional constituencies and the Election Committee - at 496 polling stations.
Ten seats were uncontested. First results from the counting centre at the Convention and Exhibition Centre are expected in the early hours tomorrow with the last winner scheduled to be declared early evening.
The Observatory forecast squally showers, but Mrs Chan said everyone was hoping the weather would be fine.
'Even if it is raining, I urge everyone to spend a little time, it won't take long, to go to the nearest station and cast a vote.' Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, Justice Woo Kwok-hing, said there was no contingency plan for bad weather.
'We hope the elections can be held as far as it is possible. If we have to postpone it, it will be a week later. That will be much inconvenience,' he said.
More than 20,000 people complained they have not received letters notifying them where to vote.
The University of Hong Kong's Social Sciences Research Centre said the number of voters still undecided was high.
A late survey in Kowloon West constituency showed Tsang Yok-sing, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, had moved ahead of Frederick Fung Kin-kee, head of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood.
Also fighting an uphill battle was Allen Lee Peng-fei, chairman of the Liberal Party, in the New Territories East constituency. Democratic Party chief Martin Lee Chu-ming, virtually assured of winning a seat for himself and Yeung Sum on Hong Kong Island, spent much of yesterday canvassing for party colleagues in Kowloon West and New Territories West constituencies.
The party was making concentrated efforts to secure a second seat in Kowloon West for James To Kun-sun and a third seat for Zachary Wong Wai-yin in the New Territories West.
One of Mr To's rivals, Tsang Yok-sing said: 'To be honest, I've never felt worried. I feel peaceful and calm and have not been affected by poll results.' Assuming a turnout of 35 per cent, or 140,000 votes, in the constituency, he said: 'It's not wishful thinking that we can get 35,000. You just do your best. If others do even better, I can't say anything. I'll try again in the year 2000.
'My wife will not be joining me at the counting station. She'll be at home waiting for good news,' he said. Another hopeful, in Kowloon West, Mr Fung took a break from his packed campaigning schedule to have a haircut for the big day.
Allen Lee wrapped up his campaigning early and held a meeting with his poll team at his Tai Po headquarters.
Speaking from home, Mr Lee said: 'I've just had a swim. I feel relaxed.'