District board hopefuls set sights on Legco seats
By FUNG WAI-KONG
AT least one in 10 of the candidates contesting district board elections have already set their sights on the Legislative Council next year, the South China Morning Post has found.
Twenty-nine of the 215 candidates - 13.5 per cent - who responded to a survey by the Post revealed their intention to stand for the Legco election through the Election Committee.
Under the electoral law passed in June, the 346 members of district boards will form the Election Committee to choose 10 legislators.
Although outside candidates are allowed, members themselves are widely seen as more favourable.
A candidate from the Sai Kung District said although the Election Committee's candidature was open to non-district board members, he believed that members stood a better chance in the election.
''It would at least be easier for us to solicit support from fellow district board members,'' he said.
But the number of people interested in standing as candidates in the election could be higher as a considerable number of respondents, 41.8 per cent, are either undecided, or declined to say yes or no on the issue.
But 44.7 per cent of the respondents discounted themselves from joining the fray through the Election Committee.
The vast majority of the respondents said their decision to join the poll was not affected by the fact that district board members could form the grand electoral college.
A total of 78.1 per cent said it was not a major factor for them and only 10.2 per cent of the respondents revealed that they were attracted by this arrangement.
On the question of whether they would poll their constituents' views before casting their vote to choose 10 legislators, only less than a third of the candidates, 27.9 per cent, said they would do so.
The same percentage of candidates, however, preferred not to do so.
One candidate from the Southern District who agreed to solicit his constituents' views, said the spirit of the electoral college was actually the same as direct election and decisions should be the embodiment of the people's choice.
''We should seek a clear authorisation from the voters before casting our votes,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the poll also found that a considerable portion of candidates would have preferred to keep appointed seats in the district board, rather than have all the seats elected as stipulated in the Governor's political reform package.
A total of 31.6 per cent of the candidates said they did not agree with the decision by Legco to scrap all appointed seats.
This is despite the fully-democratic district board attracting a record number of 757 candidates to contest the poll.
Candidates rejecting the decision said having a small number of appointees would have helped create a more balanced district board and avoid district affairs becoming too politicised.
An independent candidate at Sha Tin said confrontation within the district board would intensify when different political groups sought to exert their influence on local issues.
He said the row between the two factions of the democrats camp in Kwai Tsing, with both sides accusing the other of abusing district board funds, had greatly hampered the board's work.
''Their allegations about each other also undermined the credibility of the board as a whole,'' he said.
But the majority of the respondents, 60 per cent, agreed that appointed seats should go while about eight per cent declined to comment.
The poll was conducted anonymously. Questionnaires were sent to all nominees of the election through the Registration and Electoral Office and the District Office since registration began on August 1.
A total of 215 candidates, about 30 per cent of the total, mailed the questionnaires back before the August 26 deadline.