Voter turnout no guide to who will win
Traditional political wisdom that high voter turnout is good for pan-democrats has been shaken up by a study of the last district council elections in 2007.
While areas with a low turnout did hurt the democrats in the elections four years ago, the same was true of areas with the highest turnouts, a South China Morning Post examination of the figures shows.
Candidates and analysts are not hopeful about the pan-democratic camp's chances in tomorrow's elections, in which 839 candidates are contesting 412 seats on in 18 district councils. The turnout is predicted to be lower than the 39 per cent seen in 2007.
The traditional wisdom was that the behaviour of borderline voters determined whether turnout was high or low, Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said. 'If the turnout is lower this time, it will look gloomy for the pan-democrats,' Choy said.
Four years ago, the Kowloon East districts of Wong Tai Sin and Kwun Tong saw voter turnout of 42.19 per cent and 41.46 per cent respectively.
They were the second- and third- highest turnouts among the 18 districts, but the pan-democrats did not benefit. (Though the Islands district saw the highest turnout in 2007, 44.73 per cent, as it is a large district and only 51,162 people voted, the figure was less representative.)
Of Wong Tai Sin's 20 contested constituencies, the pan-democratic and pro-government camps took nine seats each and independents took two seats.
In Kwun Tong, where turnout was 2.33 points above the city-wide average of 38.83 per cent, pan-democrats suffered a landslide defeat, winning just three of the 28 seats. Leading the field were self-proclaimed independents, who took 19 seats.
The pro-establishment camp won the remainder.
'The high voting figures [in Kowloon East] are basically due to supporters of the pro-establishment camp,' said Democratic Party lawmaker Fred Li Wah-ming.
He has been active in the area since the 1980s.
Democratic Party vice-chairwoman and legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said the 'so-called independents' were not really so independent. 'They are backed by the pro-establishment [camp],' Lau said.
'Who in society doesn't have a stance now?'
Li also attributed the rival camp's success to propaganda and what he called 'satellite groups' of social activists who claimed to promote everything from Cantonese opera to women's rights to environmental concerns. 'Many of them basically work on behalf of the pro-Beijing camp,' he said.
Federation of Trade Unions legislator Wong Kwok-kin rejected this.
'We don't have a lot of strategies,' he said. 'Our candidates - mostly district assistants - have served their communities for many years.'
In the areas with low voting rates, the pro-democracy camp's influence was negligible.
Wan Chai saw the lowest turnout, with 30.65 per cent.
The pan-democrats won only one of the 11 constituencies, the pro-establishment camp won three and independents got the rest.
In Yau Tsim Mong, which had the second-lowest turnout, with 34.15 per cent, pan-democrats won two seats, pro-establishment candidates took seven and independents picked up seven.
Choy, of Chinese University, said the pan-democrats had done well in the highly politicised polls of 2003, which followed the landmark pro-democracy march by 500,000 people earlier in the year. That produced turnout of 44 per cent and gave the camp a resounding victory.
However, the lack of pressing issues in 2007 led to a loss for the pan-democrats, Choy said.
Earlier this week, 66 per cent of respondents to a a University of Hong Kong survey said they would vote, 10 points down from a similar poll four years ago.
Democratic Party chairman and lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, who is running in the Lok Tsui constituency of Tuen Mun against People Power's Albert Chan Wai-yip and independent Shum Kam-tim, said: 'A high turnout is not necessarily to our benefit. It's merely because of the opposing camp's core support.
'But a low rate is definitely to [the pan democrats'] disadvantage.'
Source: Registration and Electoral Office