Record turnout in district polls

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am


A record turnout of 1.2 million people voted yesterday in the most hotly contested district council elections in the city's history.

Of the 2.9 million eligible voters, 41.4 per cent cast their ballots, as 839 candidates contested 336 constituencies, while 76 councillors were returned uncontested. The count was expected to be completed by 4am today.

The turnout compared with 38.8 per cent in the 2007 district council polls and 44.06 per cent in 2003, when there were nearly 500,000 fewer registered voters.

Early results indicated the pan-democrats were in for a long and painful night.

Civic Party legislators Tanya Chan and Ronny Tong Ka-wah both lost out. Chan was beaten by the Liberal Party's Joseph Chan Ho-lim in the Peak constituency of Central and Western, while Tong lost to incumbent independent Wong Ka-wing in City One in Sha Tin.

Wong said he was surprised by the size of his victory, polling almost twice as many votes as Tong.

Another pan-democrat heavyweight, Lee Cheuk-yan of the Confederation of Trade Unions, was defeated by Wong Kwai-yung of the Federation of Trade Unions in the Fu Yan constituency in Yuen Long district.

Democrat Party vice-chairman and lawmaker Sin Chung-kai became another major scalp, losing out to incumbent councillor David Wong Chor-fung of the New People's Party in Wan Chai's Tai Hang constituency.

Sin said it was a 'painful loss' and showed that the public had 'sounded the alarm bells for the pan-democratic camp'. He said his party needed deep reflection.

It was a colourful day for some candidates, with Democrat Ricky Lam Wai-kei remaining calm and silent while People Power's Edward Yum Liang-hsien yelled at him for five minutes in front of television cameras in the Lung Sheung constituency of the Wong Tai District Council election.

The radical pan-democratic group People Power fielded 62 candidates, of whom 36 challenged the Democratic Party, while nine more took on the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL). People Power said its goal was to penalise the two moderate groups for backing the government's reform package for the 2012 elections.

The Democrats and the ADPL warned that People Power's move would split the democrat vote.

The elections were widely seen as a milestone on the way to universal suffrage, and sparked unprecedented interest among political parties. More was at stake than usual this year: under the electoral reform package passed last year, district councillors will be eligible to contest the five 'super seats', to be decided by 3.3 million voters in next year's Legco election.

The 412 newly elected district councillors can take part in the election committee subsector polls next month and the 117 winners can vote for the chief executive in March.

Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, attributed the higher voter turnout to the creation of five 'super seats' in the Legislative Council and the pan-democrats' repeated warnings of the dire political consequences if they did not produce a good showing in the district council polls.

Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Mr Justice Barnabas Fung Wah said that by 5pm yesterday it had received 1,600 complaints from voters.