Candidates are rewarded for their hard work in local elections

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 4:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 6:46am

A district council by-election seldom makes headlines. But the defeat of veteran Democrat lawmaker Sin Chung-kai in the southern district precinct has understandably generated much media attention. Not only has the outcome surprised many, it also prompted a lot of political soul-searching.

The South Horizon vacancy arose after former Democrat Andrew Fung Wai-kwong joined the chief executive's office. He was previously re-elected in a close battle with a rival from the New People's Party, headed by lawmaker and executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee. It therefore came as no surprise that the government-friendly party won with a comfortable margin this time by fielding freshman Judy Chan Ka-pui. What shocked the Democrats is that Sin came last in the fray, grabbing fewer votes than former beauty pageant contestant Erica Yuen Mi-ming, of the radical pro-democracy People Power.

This is not the first time Sin has lost in a lower-tier ballot. Nor is it the first for pan-democrats to be beaten by the moderate pro-establishment force. But the outcome still dealt the party a heavy blow.

How politically representative is the preference of 4,000-odd voters in a middle-class housing estate on Island south is open to debate. It may be tempting to jump to the conclusion that the moderate approach championed by the Democratic Party is losing appeal; and that the radical forces have gained wider support. But it is worth noting that party label may not be as important a consideration as it is in Legco elections. Voters in the by-election were probably more impressed by Yuen's being a celebrity rather than her political affiliation. Without solid records in serving the people, she and Sin were trailing behind Chan, who pocketed more votes than the two put together.

The lesson is simple. A candidate's hard work pays off in an election. Voters in a district council poll look beyond political credentials and slogans when they cast their ballot. They return those who can best represent and serve them.