Pan-democrats may find it tough to regain seats in by-elections
Eva Wu and Gary Cheung
The democratic camp's candidates contesting any Legislative Council by-elections initiated by a proposed resignation plan could face a hard fight in regaining their seats, a Democratic Party heavyweight says.
Veteran Democrat Lee Wing-tat warned yesterday that, without his party's full support, candidates from the two pan-democratic groups - the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats - could lose up to 30,000 votes and the risk would be even higher if the by-election turnout rate was less than 40 per cent.
The plan would see one lawmaker from each of the five geographical constituencies resign, resulting in by-elections for those seats.
According to Lee's assessment, the party's candidates in New Territories West in last year's Legco election won an extra 300 to 500 votes in a constituency where there was a district councillor from the party.
'Similar phenomena also existed in another four constituencies in last year's election,' he said. The Democrats have a total of 61 district councillors in Hong Kong, which means pan-democrats could lose about 30,000 votes in five constituencies.
Albert Chan Wai-yip, the League of Social Democrats legislator who is expected to stand in New Territories West, could lose up to 11,000 votes in that constituency without the full support of the grass-roots network of the Democratic Party.
Lee said many district councillors from his party and their longtime volunteers had expressed reservations about canvassing votes for pan-democratic candidates in a by-election after a squabble between the Democratic Party and the other two groups over the mass resignation plan.
He warned that the pan-democrats could face an uphill battle if the turnout rate fell to less than 40 per cent, which was a likely scenario in the by-elections.
Lee estimated that the turnout rate would range from 35 per cent to 40 per cent. Another Democratic Party leader said two of the five pan-democrats could lose if the turnout rate was less than 40 per cent.
Last week, a majority of party members voted down the resignation plan but they can canvass votes for the democratic camp's by-election candidates in their personal capacity.
The party's deputy chairwoman, Emily Lau Wai-hing, however, said yesterday that this would be difficult for her if the fight for dual universal suffrage in 2012 was not mentioned in the campaign.
'Hongkongers are still in support of 2012 dual universal suffrage. I cannot defend myself if the election campaign does not mention 2012,' Lau told the media yesterday.
However, certain members of the Civic-League coalition were still optimistic they would obtain significant help from Democrats.
In Kowloon East, one member said he was about to formally contact Democrat district councillor, Wu Chi-wai, who had indicated he was willing to help.
Negotiations over the precise date of resignation are continuing, and the coalition now expects them to take place within January. If that happens by-elections would occur by the middle of next year.
Meanwhile, 51 per cent of 1,000 respondents to a University of Hong Kong survey disagreed with the resignation plan, but 26 per cent backed it.
More than 40 per cent of 1,000 respondents backed the government's political reform proposal, a drop of 1 to 2 percentage points compared with survey results last month, which was within a sampling error of 3 per cent. The HKU's Public Opinion Programme interviewed 1,000 Hongkongers last week.