Pan-democrats fail to agree on a way to pick candidate

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2007, 12:00am

Pan-democrats who hope to run in the Hong Kong Island Legislative Council by-election failed to make a breakthrough in talks yesterday to devise a mechanism to select a single candidate.

But they sought to play down any differences, saying they never expected it would be easy.

Speaking after the first meeting of possible contenders, League of Social Democrats chairman Wong Yuk-man said they had known that reaching a consensus would take time.

'It's not an easy task. But at least all of us are sitting down and discussing it,' he said.

With former security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee likely to win the blessing of Beijing loyalists to stand in the race, the camp wants to field one candidate to avoid splitting the vote.

The seat was left vacant by the death earlier this month of Ma Lik, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

So far Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of the Civic Act-up pressure group, and Kam Nai-wai, a Democratic Party district councillor, have said they would stand. The League is also keen to field a candidate but has yet to decide if it will be Mr Wong or one of two former legislators, Lo Wing-lok and Tsang Kin-shing.

The Democratic Party has proposed a choice based on a candidate's popularity in an opinion poll and support among pan-democrat legislators and district councillors.

University of Hong Kong pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu has also tabled a mechanism, involving open debates among contenders and ballots by party members and supporters in the constituency.

Mr Wong said the academic's proposal was open to abuse if people in rival camps posed as supporters to influence the outcome.

The Democratic Party's suggestion to take into account district councillors' support might also be seen as unfair to independent hopefuls or organisations without many councillors, Mr Wong said.

But he warned of the possibility of losing the battle if aspirants insisted the mechanism must be fair to all.

'The purpose of negotiation is to come up with someone who can win. It's not for the sake of fairness. If we pursue the myth of fairness, we might be unable to win,' he said.

The League is considering tabling its own mechanism for consideration, including taking into account the views of allied groups in the pan-democratic camp.

Mr Kam was 'cautiously optimistic' about reaching a consensus. 'I believe we will have to integrate the proposals. Things will become clearer after one or two rounds of talks.'

He said Dr Chung's proposal was rather complicated and might not be ready for implementation in the by-election, which is expected to be held in early December.

Ms Ho also dismissed suggestions that the negotiations would fail. She said each party had to sort out the issues raised in the meeting and come up with a mechanism for the camp that would apply to the by-election and future elections.

Dr Chung said a modification of his proposal should be applicable to all parties and groups for Legco and district council polls.

Leaders of the camp will meet today to review the situation.

The DAB's acting chairman, Tam Yiu-chung, said last week that his party had yet to discuss the by-election, saying he had not heard whether any members intended to run.