Pan-democrats' hopes 'dimmed'
Gary Cheung and Amy Nip
The defeats suffered by pan-democrats in Sunday's district council elections will weaken their prospects in next year's Legislative Council poll, as the results will undermine their district networks and ability to muster support at grass-roots level, political observers say.
The Beijing-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) emerged the biggest winner with 136 seats, up from the 115 it won in 2007.
Added to the 11 seats won by its ally, the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), the two government-friendly groups accounted for 35 per cent of the 412 seats on 18 district councils.
The success rate of the 182 DAB candidates was 74.7 per cent, up from 65 per cent in 2007.
The pan-democratic camp suffered an even worse defeat than in 2007. Various groups from the camp won a total of 83 seats on Sunday, down from 96 four years ago - even though their share of the popular vote increased. Just 47 of the Democratic Party's 132 candidates were returned, down from 59 in 2007 when it fielded 108 candidates. A record 1.2 million people voted in the most hotly contested district council elections in Hong Kong's history.
Seven of 41 candidates from the Civic Party won seats. The party has attracted criticism for its role in legal cases involving foreign domestic workers' right of residency and the environmental assessment of the giant bridge project linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau.
The government-friendly camp won 34.5 per cent of the vote, up from 29.6 per cent in 2007. And despite the pan-democrats' setbacks, they still won 33.2 per cent of the total, up from 27.5 per cent four years ago.
If the votes in the 18 district councils are regrouped into five Legco geographical constituencies, the share of votes won by the DAB and FTU everywhere but on Hong Kong Island was higher than in 2007. The two groups won 30.6 per cent of the total vote in New Territories West, 6.7 percentage points higher than the share won by the DAB in 2007.
FTU candidates did not run in elections under the unions' own banner until 2008.
Dr James Sung Lap-kung, a political scientist at City University, said the pan-democrats' loss of more than a dozen district council seats would affect their near-term political future.
'Many pan-democrat councillors' offices at district levels will be taken up by their pro-government rivals. Pan-democrats will be in a disadvantageous position to maintain their grass-roots network, which is crucial for next year's Legco election,' he said.
Pan-democrats have usually won about 60 per cent of the vote in Legco elections, while Beijing-friendly candidates polled 40 per cent. 'I think the pan-democrats may not be able to maintain the 60-40 golden rule in next year's Legco election,' Sung said. 'The gap ... may narrow to 55 and 45 per cent.'
Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, professor of politics at City University, said pan-democrats fared better at Legco election polling stations in constituencies where their district councillors held office.
For example, in the 2008 Legco election, the ticket fielded by the Civic Party won 268 votes at the polling station at the German Swiss International School - the highest among all parties. The DAB won just 79 votes at that polling station, which is in The Peak constituency of Central and Western District Council. The Civic Party's Tanya Chan won the seat in the 2007 district polls, but she lost on Sunday.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit called on pan-democrats to rally. 'Various pan-democratic parties need to learn a hard lesson for the democratisation movement, and sit down as soon as possible to prepare for next year's Legco election,' he said.