No fools

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2011, 12:00am


We can brush it off as political denial, the first stage of what is probably political grief. But the last thing a politician should do is blame the voters when they lose. We don't need reminding of the public anger independent legislator and, now, re-elected district councillor Priscilla Leung Mei-fun aroused with her 'voters will be punished' statement.

Indeed, much can be learned from the district council election results; some of the politicians will need to do a lot of soul-searching.

The People Power party and League of Social Democrats made a lot of noise but had little impact. Only a handful of the losses the Democratic Party suffered can arguably be attributed to the radicals' campaign to make the Democrats 'pay' for their support of the constitutional reform package.

For the most part, the Democrats acted with grace and dignity following the attacks and losses - which speaks volumes about their maturity and character. Although most of us would no longer be surprised by anything Wong Yuk-man says, it is still absurd to hear him declare the People Party's efforts 'successful', congratulating himself and the party for the high voter turnout. Apparently, some people think it's all about them.

The election recalls the famous axiom of former US congressman Tip O'Neill: All politics is local. This means that candidates should, in O'Neill's words, 'pay attention to their own backyard and take care of their folks'. The idea is not to take voters for granted - that is, if you run for office, the election isn't about you, it's always about the people.

Many commentators, including those at the Apple Daily, chose to rely on 'traditional wisdom' that says, for example, that a higher voter turnout would be more advantageous for pan-democrats, and the vote share would be split 60-40 between the pan-democrats and pro-establishment camp. These turned out to be no more than hypotheses that voters turned out in droves to disprove. One wonders why some political parties still can't seem to get their heads around what democracy and elections are all about.

Democracy is about trusting and respecting the voters. In short, voters want to be treated as equals: equal to each other and equal to candidates. No matter how lofty one's ideals, when the simple, everyday concerns of those who hold the vote are brushed aside, you lose.

Hong Kong voters have spoken. They are insulted to be considered merely as a statistical 'golden rule' of 60-40. They are insulted that some political stars feel that by simply gracing them with their presence, people would be star-struck and manipulated. They are insulted because their homes have been made the battlefields to avenge political foes. They are insulted by candidates who don't put in the time, effort or attention to take care of their needs (for example, by turning up for only 40 per cent of district council meetings). And they are insulted when the sore losers blame voters.

Hong Kong voters have, indeed, spoken. And we are a sophisticated and wise bunch - capable of independent thought - and we know when we are being taken for a ride.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA