Chan laments absence of election fever
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Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang says the government is not doing enough to encourage people to vote in Sunday's district council elections, and criticised radicals for splitting the pan-democratic vote.
'In previous elections, senior government officials came out in a high-profile manner to urge voters to go to the polling stations,' she said in an interview yesterday.
'But for this year's district council elections, almost no top officials have made such an appeal to the public. It seems the government intends to cool down the election atmosphere.'
A government public-interest advert, calling on voters to cast their ballots on Sunday, has been broadcast by television and radio stations in the past few weeks.
Chan also criticised the radical group People Power for running candidates against fellow pan-democratic groups, saying that will only benefit the government-friendly camp.
She urged voters to support pan-democratic candidates.
'If voters want to be represented by district councillors who have vision and will fight for social justice, they must come out on Sunday,' she said.
Dr Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the government had shown little enthusiasm in publicising more than a dozen elections since the handover. The exception was the first post-handover Legislative Council election in 1998.
'I don't think the government is more lukewarm than normal in its publicity for this year's district council elections. What is notable is the low-profile coverage of the election by the media,' he said.
A spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the government had spared no effort in promoting this year's district council elections, and had earmarked HK$7 million for publicity activities.
'We have placed public-interest ads in the electronic media and installed giant wall banners in many buildings,' the spokesman said.
Chan said the pan-democratic camp could face an uphill battle if few voters show up.
'If voter turnout for the district council elections remains low, it will be difficult for the camp to retain its existing seats,' she said.
Various groups in the pan-democratic camp currently have 89 seats on district councils. Voter turnout for the 2007 district council elections was 38.83 per cent.
Chan said People Power members should ask themselves what purpose they intended to serve by running against candidates from the Democratic Party and Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood. The radicals say they want to punish the two groups for supporting the government's reforms for next year's elections.
Chan warned that People Power's challenge would split the pro-democrat vote, opening the way for government-friendly candidates to win some hotly contested seats.