Pan-democrats caught between a rock and a hard place

The decision by “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung to throw his hat into the ring as a possible chief executive candidate, has left the camp with a choice of going against their beliefs or wasting their Election Committee votes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 12:46am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 12:46am

The pan-democrats are, for the first time, able to play a more significant role in the process to choose the city’s chief executive. Instead of fielding their own candidate, they are trying to become the kingmaker with their 300-odd votes in a race that involves four non-pan-democrat contestants. But now that “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung has thrown his hat into the ring, the camp has been caught between a rock and a hard place.

Few would say that the maverick lawmaker is chief executive material. But he is seeking to stand via public nomination – a mechanism championed by pan-democrats during the reform of the chief executive polls three years ago. Leung’s approach makes it difficult for his allies to ditch him in favour of rivals who do not fully subscribe to their democratic ideals. The camp has to think carefully how to maximise its influence in the electoral process without compromising their democratic principles.

‘Long Hair’ admits he might fall short on public support for Hong Kong chief executive run

Whether pan-democrats should participate in the chief executive race has long been a subject of debate. After all, a pan-democrat leader is still unlikely under the current political context. Radicals like Leung have previously denounced their allies for joining the process, saying it would only legitimise an undemocratic election. Leung admitted making a U-turn to come forward, but said he needed to stop the camp from moving towards the wrong direction.

The pan-democrats, with 326 ballots, have enough votes to nominate two candidates. In line with their rationale – to counter manipulation and to enhance competition – it is likely that they will nominate former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and perhaps retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, even though neither comes from their camp. But there will be pressure to nominate Leung should he secure the 38,000 votes to meet the public nomination threshold. The dilemma is clear – to go against their political beliefs to support Tsang and Woo, or to endorse “Long Hair” and waste their votes. The camp needs better strategy and coordination if it wants to play a more influential role in the race.