ADPL party lagging in polls, as it bids to hold on to last seat in Legco
Pan-democrat party is at risk of losing its only seat in legislature, and grip on Kowloon West stronghold, where surveys show it lagging rivals
The 25-year-old Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood is fighting for its life, with polls showing it could lose its only seat in the Legislative Council.
After Kowloon West incumbent Frederick Fung Kin-kee switched to the race for one of the five new "super seats" in Legco's district council constituency, leaving vice-chairman Tam Kwok-kiu to jockey for the party's traditional stronghold, both are lagging in the polls.
Recent tracking surveys conducted by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme showed the two-candidate slate headed by Fung in a close fight for the final "super seat" - other pan-democrat and pro-establishment candidates appear on track to split the other four seats between them.
Fung's main rival for the seat appears to be Starry Lee Wai-king of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
The two are each supported by 7 to 8 per cent of respondents, according to polls jointly commissioned by i-Cable and Now TV.
The new seats have been dubbed "super seats" because they will be elected by a city-wide ballot with some 3.2 million voters, without a vote in any other functional constituency, eligible to vote.
In the five-seat Kowloon West constituency, meanwhile, the five-member slate led by Tam also risks losing as it is lagging at least three percentage points behind those in the top five spots.
Meeting the press on Thursday, Tam said the tracking polls might not be reflecting reality.
"I believe the ADPL's track record in the constituency remains our strongest edge," he said.
He said that as the election neared, the party would step up its message on livelihood issues, "especially that we are firmer than pro-establishment parties such as the DAB".
Tam is hoping to keep most of Fung's 35,440 voters from four years ago, as he estimates that he needs at least 25,000 to 30,000 votes to secure a seat.
The lists led by People Power's Wong Yuk-man, the DAB's Ann Chiang Lai-wan, Kowloon West New Dynamic's Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, the Civic Party's Claudia Mo Man-ching and the Democratic Party's Helena Wong Pik-wan are in the lead.
"This election is definitely a life-or-death battle for us. We will do our best in our campaigns across the city and in [Kowloon West]," the 54-year-old Tam said.
"It is a test to see if our belief [of striving for democracy in a practical manner] can win the public's recognition and whether our electioneering succeeds."
Irrespective of the results, Tam said there would be no regrets. "We do not consider it from the ADPL's perspective. Had we feared losing we would have fielded Frederick in Kowloon West."
Asked about the ADPL's future if it lost in both constituencies, Tam said this scenario was not in their minds as yet.
"We have our mission. Frederick aims to help pan-democrats secure three super seats and at least 24 [of the 70 Legco] seats in total. It has an important symbolic meaning," he said.
The camp requires one-third of the seats to retain power to veto crucial changes to laws.
Apart from a two-year gap from 1998 to 2000, Fung has served in the legislature since 1991. He said he was untroubled by the party's challenges.
"The results have not come out. Why should we regret?" he said. "In elections abroad, televised debates do affect candidates' support rating … I have been undergoing intensive debate training to improve my performance."
The 59-year-old has been endorsed by Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman, formerly of the Civic Party. Fung said the Dutch-born councillor had been actively helping him canvass for votes, especially from the Civic Party and the Labour Party.
His rivals include democrats Albert Ho Chun-yan and James To Kun-sun, Lau Kong-wah of the DAB, Chan Yuen-han of the Federation of Trade Unions and independent candidate Pamela Peck Wan-kam.
Should the ADPL lose in both the district council "super seat" functional constituency and Kowloon West, it will be the second time the group has suffered a total defeat in a Legco poll.
In the first post-handover election in 1998 the ADPL's three-member slate spearheaded by Fung lost in Kowloon West. He did not return to the legislature until 2000.