Public's verdict awaited on radical tactics
For the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats, which have spearheaded moves to force Sunday's Legislative Council by-elections, seen by some as a de facto referendum on the pace and scope of democratisation, make-or-break time has come.
The two parties will come under huge pressure to review their radical approach if only about 20 per cent of 3.37 million registered voters turn out on Sunday to cast their ballots.
With just a week to go before voting, the campaign does not appear to have stirred the same levels of interest as previous Legco elections, and academics predict turnout will barely scrape 25 per cent.
Some 1.52 million people, or 45.2 per cent, of the 3.37 million registered voters cast their ballots in the 2008 Legco poll.
But turnout in previous by-elections may be an indicator.
A by-election on Hong Kong Island in 2000 saw a turnout of 33.2 per cent, while turnout for the 2007 by-election in the same constituency - involving a battle between former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and former security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, was 52.06 per cent.
James Sung Lap-kung, a political scientist at City University, predicted a low turnout for Sunday's election, ranging from 20 per cent to 25 per cent.
'I think it will be the by-election with lowest turnout in living memory,' he said.
'A low turnout would indicate that the radical approach adopted by the two parties is not backed by mainstream public opinion.'
According to a survey by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme between April 26 and May 4, 22 per cent to 29 per cent of respondents planned to vote in Sunday's by-election.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, echoed Sung's sentiments.
'The Civic Party will face pressure to adopt a relatively moderate stance and get closer to moderate pan-democrats led by the Alliance for Universal Suffrage in the light of a poor voter turnout,' he said. But league chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang said he was more optimistic about voter turnout since the government had detailed its proposals for the 2012 elections.
The government is proposing to expand by half, to 1,200 members, the Election Committee that picks the chief executive, and to create 10 more Legco seats.
To is adamant that between 700,000 and 800,000 voters will cast their ballots on Sunday. Votes cast by 800,000 electors would translate to a turnout of 23.7 per cent.
To said his optimism was partly related to the Professional Teachers Union's appeal to its 80,000-plus members to vote on Sunday.
The union is one of the 13 pan-democratic groups that founded the Alliance for Universal Suffrage.
The Tertiary 2012, which is fielding five candidates in the by-elections, organised a march from Prince Edward to Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday.
Meanwhile, Anson Chan, convenor of the Citizens' Commission on Constitutional Development, said they were shocked by the government's 'blatant attempts' to discourage Hong Kong people from taking part in the May 16 by-elections.
'We strongly urge Hong Kong people to exercise their right to make good use of their precious vote,' she said.
Let the people speak
League of Social Democrats' Andrew To Kwan-hang is optimistic about voter turnout
He says if 800,000 people vote, it will translate into a turnout of: 23.7%