Legislative Council elections 2016

Legco candidates must offer voters solutions, not slogans

Sense of apathy hangs over campaigning for the Legislative Council poll, in part due to candidates’ insistence on slinging mud rather than offering ideas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2016, 2:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2016, 4:19am

A sense of apathy still prevails weeks after campaigning for the Legislative Council polls began. So far there appears to be no real election issue that captures public attention. Those who have signed up for the fray continue to trade verbal attacks and insults rather than engaging in rational debates. It would be worrying if voters remain indifferent and shun the ballot on September 4.

The televised election forums are particularly disappointing. With a record 84 candidate lists and only 35 geographical constituency seats, the debates are as challenging for organisers as for the candidates. The “equal-time” principle imposed by the election watchdog makes meaningful discussions difficult.

This is not helped when candidates ditch elucidation of campaign platforms in favour of finger pointing during the limited air time. Little is said on how to help Hong Kong move forward and to tackle the many long-standing problems, such as the housing shortage and the ageing population. The forums are more like shouting matches that serve no voters.

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Candidates may think they can sway people’s choice by highlighting their rivals’ questionable voting records or dubious stances on certain issues. While negative campaigning is not unusual, it does not necessarily translate into votes for oneself. After all, voters support those whom they can trust. That makes meaningful debates on issues of importance essential.

Unfortunately, they are woefully lacking. Instead, attention is drawn to whether candidates are “genuine localists”; or whether they back Leung Chun-ying for another term. The two issues are no doubt topical. But with the chief executive yet to make clear his re-election intention, the question seems premature to ask. The debate on localism and independence is also going nowhere.

The sorry state of affairs is also attributed to the limited power and the negative image of the legislature. Currently, lawmakers cannot freely initiate policies and legislative proposals. The dominance of pro-establishment members, while enhancing stability for the government, has fuelled tension with the pan-democrats. The council’s credibility suffers further when some rebel members counter with filibustering tactics. Public perception of the council’s operation is anything but positive.

With the ballot less than two weeks away, the candidates should seek to impress with more substantive platforms rather than with empty slogans or mud-slinging. Hopefully, voters will be more engaged and return those worthy of their votes.