Pan-democrat clashes, likely poll inaccuracies cloud predictions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2008, 12:00am

It has been widely expected that the four seats in Kowloon East will be shared 50-50 by pan-democrats and Beijing loyalists in Sunday's Legislative Council election, but clashes among pan-democrats and an unpredictable number of leftist voters invisible to opinion polls add uncertainty to the outcome.

Opinion surveys by the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University and Lingnan University have all shown Civic Party candidate Alan Leong Kah-kit, Wong Kwok-kin of the Federation of Trade Unions, Chan Kam-lam of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, and the Democratic Party's Fred Li Wah-ming are likely to win seats by significant margins.

But the latest HKU survey showed support for incumbent Mr Li at 15.5 per cent, a drop from 25 per cent in a poll two weeks ago, still enough to position him for a probable win but also a record low for Mr Li since the rolling survey started early last month. The result is well outside the margin of error.

One element in the mix is that the Democratic Party has decided to run one of its candidates, Wu Chi-wai, separate from the others, which will water down Mr Li's share of the voters.

Mr Wu now has 6.2 per cent of the vote share in the polls, up from 3.9 per cent two weeks ago, a statistically significant increase.

Another candidate, Andrew To Kwan-hang of the League of Social Democrats, considered part of the pan-democratic camp, has about 6.4 per cent of the vote share, according to the latest poll, up from 6.1 per cent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Possible poll inaccuracies could signal a threat to Mr Li because Kowloon East is considered to be a leftist stronghold. Pollster Li Pang-kwong said leftists usually got 5 per cent more of the vote than the polls have shown, while the pan-democrats could have been expected to get 3 per cent less. And Professor Li said many Beijing-friendly voters tended not to respond to opinion polls, further undermining poll accuracy.

But Mr Li said: 'Under the list system of proportional representation, any rival would need about 40 per cent of the votes to take my seat ... I don't think any pro-establishment tickets can do that.'

Mr Wu said it had been a Democratic Party decision to have him compete against other candidates, and the risks had been taken into account. He said the party would not direct voters in the final stage of the election.

'I will keep on fighting hard until the polling stations close,' he said.