PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2012, 5:31pm

Election weary

Alice Wu says HK voters, in the midst of a political marathon, know they have the power and want more substance before they'll listen


Alice Wu fell down the rabbit hole of politics aged 12, when she ran her first election campaign. She has been writing about local politics and current affairs for the Post since 2008. Alice's daily needs include her journals, books, a multi-coloured pen and several lattes.

I may be going out on a limb here, but Hong Kong seems pretty "electioned" out: The Legislative Council election, in less than three weeks, hasn't generated much excitement among the masses.

This certainly isn't political apathy. The political storms of recent months got the entire city talking politics and, for many, participating in politics by taking to the streets and signing petitions. It isn't only the Leung Chun-ying administration that is struggling with the problem of political disconnect with the masses; candidates running in races to be "the people's representatives" are also having trouble finding an audience.

Perhaps it's that there are just too many elections in 10 months - the district council polls, the Election Committee, the chief executive and now Legco. All the drama - the sleaze, lies, triad dinner, illegal basement, tear gas and, most importantly, the Beijing decision - that precipitated from the chief executive race in the spring sparked interest beyond our shores. It mattered most, theoretically, since it was for the top seat. Anything after that seems trite and anti-climactic.

But that can't possibly explain all of it. Our lawmakers managed to make the last month before the legislature's summer recess a top-billing political show. The filibusters sparked more public interest and debate than all the electioneering combined.

It's possible voters have already made up their minds. There's little ambiguity over where most candidates stand. And the public has now seen - through the filibustering - how little the legislature can actually do.

It's turning the tables in local politics. No longer are the masses ready and eager, waiting to be fed the political agendas of politicians and the media. Watching the pro-establishment and pan-democrats hashing out old political fault lines is so expected, so old and so stale that people are tuning out. They know the power for political discourse now rests with them, and they demand that politicians join their conversations.

So, these candidates are finding it harder to engage when the answer is quite simple: they must wake up to the fact that people will tune in only when you talk about what matters to them. The in-fighting, candidates' "needs" and wants and the reasons for them aren't all that matter any more. It's about what the people need, and unless the candidates start to address that, they will find little public fanfare over them.

Beijing has a lot to ponder, too. As long as Hongkongers are forced to deal with a political environment and set-up that distracts rather than focuses on the real political issues, Beijing will inevitably find itself increasingly asked to carry the blunt end of this city's political sticks. It surely must have noticed how the people have bypassed the city's leaders in airing out their grievances, marching past Tamar straight to Sai Wan.

The geography and power of local politics have changed. It will be to everyone's benefit if those who are, or want to be, in the business of politics play catch-up.

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



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