Bottom line on turnout still up in the air

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 1994, 12:00am

TOP civil servants would not say how many voters had to turn out before the Government would consider the elections a success.

But it was obvious they were watching the turnout figures closely and using them as a yardstick.

One of the first before the cameras at 9.15 am was Financial Secretary Sir Hamish Macleod. Despite his casual dress, Sir Hamish was already up to date with the day's events.

'We have now got over 16,000 voting in the first hour, which compares with 9,000 last time. It is already looking well up,' he said.

When asked what target the Government was looking for, Sir Hamish said: 'Everyone is being very cautious'.

But momentarily dropping his guard, he added: 'We have a record number of candidates and we hope to have a record number of voters.' That was about the closest the Government came to making a prediction before the polls shut.

By 10.45 am things were not so rosy and Attorney-General Jeremy Mathews was not so upbeat when he put his ballot in the box.

'I have just seen the figures at 9.30 am. Nearly 50,000 had already decided to use their vote. It is slightly ahead on last time,' he said.

But he had an explanation for it: 'We know traditionally it is later in the afternoon and the evening that a lot of people come out and vote.

'I hope we will have a really good turnout. There is no reason why it should not be so.' Mr Mathews then did a gentle piece of arm twisting. 'If you want to have a say you have to come out and vote. Life is not a spectator sport.' Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang refused to speak to the press as she cast her vote. But later at a brief press conference she said she was happy with how things were going.

'I have been informed that more people have voted at this time of the day than for the elections of 1991, so obviously we're very pleased.

'The very satisfactory voter turnout rate so far evidently demonstrates that the people believe that the election arrangements are what they want, that they are fair and open and they want to have a say in who represents them at district board level.

'I am sure this is a good signal for the 1995 elections to the Legislative Council.' Neither Sir Hamish nor Mr Mathews revealed who they had voted for, or even what criteria they had used to arrive at their choice.

'It is a secret,' said Mr Mathews. 'It is my personal choice.' At the Raimondi College in Mid-Levels, Baroness Lydia Dunn also pointed to the growth in the number of voters who turned up at the polls.

'It is a very important step - they have a right and a duty to cast their votes,' she said.

'. . . they have an important task, not just in improving or responding to the needs of people in the districts - improving Hong Kong's quality of life - they will also have the duty later on to vote for 10 members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council.'