Handling tips

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2012, 12:00am

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In a week's time, we'll know who this city's next chief executive will be, or - with the growing possibility of a hung vote on Sunday - at least to expect more mud until May. Get used to it, I say; that's the stuff elections are made of - the important ones, at least.

If a hung vote does occur, and we have to go through more campaigning and mud-slinging, there's a need to examine why all three candidates could be deemed 'unelectable'.

Leung Chun-ying has played the dark horse to a T. He's the underdog who consistently topped polls - a phenomenon that speaks a lot about Hongkongers' entrenched rejection of having their leaders 'hand-picked'. If he fails to secure enough votes, the problem most probably will have been the bad blood between him and/or his backers on the one hand, and a significant enough portion of the Election Committee on the other. It's not just the tycoons; a large-enough chunk of this city's elite seems to mistrust him.

And if 'The One' - the presumably Beijing-anointed one, that is - doesn't secure enough votes on Sunday, then it has to be attributed to the damning skeletons that came out, with impeccable timing, during the campaign. If Sunday turns out badly for Henry Tang Ying-yen, it must have had something to do with the fact that he failed to dig himself out of his hole quickly enough.

Hongkongers aren't naive enough to expect perfect human beings in politics, but it's the irrefutable difference between the way Tang handled his personal crises and the likes of, say, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, that would make him 'unelectable'. His staunch supporters may chalk it up to not having enough time to bounce back in the polls, but he must also bear the brunt of not doing enough to ensure he's not a political liability.

Albert Ho Chun-yan never stood a chance. But, unlike the other two candidates, it's not personal.

Ho's problem may be the easiest to solve, precisely because it isn't personal. If we consider that, by 2017, with an even more sophisticated public exercising their universal right to vote, the idea of a victory for Ho, or someone else from the pan-democrats' camp, isn't really so inconceivable, or even implausible.

It's hard to imagine Beijing not understanding fully that elections are inherently messy affairs. We can expect less apathy after 2012, for the selection of the city's future chief executives will no longer be a spectator event for Hongkongers. Beijing must find a new way of engagement; a paradigm shift in the way Hong Kong affairs are handled will take a lot of work, but is not impossible.

Strange, isn't it? This is exactly what Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing has been saying since last year, wondering out loud whether ideological differences must be indefinitely irreconcilable, politically. Many may have waved away his call for the need for reconciliation, but if Sunday's election is aborted, he may find himself with a ready and willing audience.

A week is a long time in politics. So anything can happen.

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