Division will make Legco even more complex

It's hard to see how Leung will be able to get enough support to pass reform proposals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 3:11am

The election results apparently have not brought any major changes to Legco in terms of the balance of power.

The democrats, like in 2008, won almost 40 per cent (27 out of 70) of the seats, thus keeping their vital veto power over any constitutional reform proposal, which requires two-thirds support in Legco.

In terms of the share of votes, the establishment parties again got the usual 40 per cent support in the geographical constituencies.

But beneath these superficial similarities there are some significant changes that may affect the political development of Hong Kong.

Closer examination reveals that the democratic camp is now divided into three more or less equal groupings: the moderate Democratic Party and Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood; the radical People Power and the League of Social Democrats; and the professional Civic Party.

They each command about 14 per cent of support in directly elected seats, with support for the radical democrats on the rise (from 10 per cent in 2008 to almost 15 per cent), and the moderates in decline (from 23 per cent in 2008 to 15 per cent).

If the moderates cannot reinvent themselves soon, they risk being overtaken by the radicalisation of democratic supporters. This may imply that the Democratic Party's compromise on political reform in 2010 was not popular with the electorate.

Furthermore, it seems that traditional district work by the moderates has not been transformed into electoral support this time round. This may encourage the democratic parties to engage more in political and street struggles in order to gain support in the future rather than working hard to build grass-roots networks. How this will impact on the development of political parties remains to be seen.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and some other establishment-camp parties have demonstrated they are most professional and effective as an election machine in terms of strategic voting. The fact that all nine DAB tickets got elected in the geographical seats is remarkable. Their good calculations have borne fruit by winning 17 of 35 directly elected seats with only 40 per cent of overall support.

Michael Tien Puk-sun's victory in New Territories West may indicate the New People's Party has the potential to develop into a citywide establishment party; Miriam Lau Kin-yee's failure to capture a seat on Hong Kong Island may mean the Liberal Party is in long-term decline, with its inability to win more directly elected seats.

Last but not least, with a more divided democratic camp and a less than unified establishment camp - the division between the Leung Chun-ying faction and the Henry Tang Ying-yen faction - politics in Legco will become even more complex, and it is difficult to imagine how the Leung administration will amass enough support to pass its political reform proposals for under such circumstances.

Chor-yung Cheung is senior teaching fellow in the department of public and social administration at City University