National education in Hong Kong

Super seats boost voter turnout in Legco elections

Controversy over national education also helps raise total as 1.7 million head to polling booths

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 4:20am

Higher turnout at yesterday's Legislative Council election as a result of the recent controversy over national education may have given pan-democrats a bigger chance of winning three of the five newly-created "super lawmaker" seats, preliminary exit poll results by the University of Hong Kong suggested.

Its initial prediction also gave the pro-establishment candidates Starry Lee Wai-king and Chan Yuen-han a higher chance of securing the remaining two seats.

But Lau Kong-wah, a veteran legislator and a vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, might lose his bid in the new district council (second) functional constituency.

However, many battles across the five geographical constituencies were too close to call, making it hard to predict the full results, which were not expected to be available until noon today.

Political scientists said the traditional 6:4 share of the votes between pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps could be maintained in the five geographical constituencies after some 1.83 million, or 53 per cent, out of 3.46 million registered voters had cast ballots by the end of voting yesterday, amid grievances about the government's performance.

That figure was almost 8 percentage points higher than the turnout rate in the 2008 polls, which stood at 45.2 per cent.

Some 1.67 million, or 51.9 per cent, of the 3.22 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the new "super lawmaker" constituency, suggesting that only a few answered calls by People Power to boycott the new functional constituency.

However, it remained to be seen whether the pan-democrats could secure a 24-seat "critical minority", the one-third of the seats in the expanded 70-seat Legco needed to veto constitutional changes by the government.

The newly elected lawmakers are expected to scrutinise the electoral reform bills concerning the 2016 Legco election and the 2017 chief executive election, which Beijing has promised will involve universal suffrage though with detailed mechanisms yet to be outlined.

The initial prediction suggested the Civic Party might secure six seats, including Tanya Chan, who was running second on the party's list in Hong Kong Island. But former party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee was engaged in a close battle with rivals in New Territories West.

The Democratic Party, which had been challenged by the radical democrat People Power because of its support for the 2010 electoral reform package, was looking as if it could suffer, as only three of its eight slates of candidates appeared to be ahead in the voting.

Five out of nine slates of tickets from the DAB were in close fights with rivals, and one surprise was that the group's chairman, Tam Yiu-chung, was among them. Tam had been leading in the HKU's opinion polls throughout the campaign.

Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of the university's public opinion programme, said the initial prediction made at 11.30pm was based on the exit poll questionnaires from 9,800 respondents.

In the 28 traditional functional constituencies, a 69.6 per cent turnout, or around 150,000 votes, was recorded, up from 59.8 per cent four years ago.

The high turnout caused long queues outside some polling stations. When the polls closed at 10.30pm, about 300 would-be voters were still queuing outside the polling station in the Tseung Kwan O Integrated Social Service Centre.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said: "Even though the final turnout rate is not yet available, the higher turnout is expected. And I don't rule out the possibility that the recent controversy on national education curriculum has attracted more voters to cast ballots."