Veteran politician Lau Kong-wah failed to become a "super seat" lawmaker apparently because his party colleague, Starry Lee Wai-king, took away many of his potential votes in the New Territories, a South China Morning Post analysis of the Legislative Council election showed.
The Post also found Lee, who is the incumbent Kowloon West lawmaker, beat former Kowloon East legislator Chan Yuen-han in Chan's own stronghold in the contest for the "super seats".
An academic believes the central government had a hand in the distribution of votes among the three Beijing-loyalist candidates.
Lee, who is also an Executive Council member, said she and Lau had stuck to the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's strategy throughout the campaign.
"I did not hand out any leaflets or put up any banner in the New Territories," she said yesterday.
The DAB said in its election strategy that party vice-chairman Lau would canvass for New Territories votes, while vice-chairwoman Lee focused on Kowloon and Hong Kong Island in the hope of bagging two seats.
Lee won with 277,143 votes on Sunday, ranking second.
The five "super seats", created in the new functional constituency for district councils. The analysis is based on results at each polling station released by the Electoral Affairs Commission.
In the New Territories, Lee secured 79,753 votes - or 45.2 per cent of Lau's 176,280 votes.
In her stronghold of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, she won 197,206 votes - eight times the support Lau got.
That suggested Lau lost almost a third of his intended votes in the New Territories, while Lee gained overwhelming support in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island. Lau, with 199,732 votes, ranked sixth in the "super seats" battle. Lee said some New Territories electors might have voted for her because they thought she would not have enough to win.
In Kowloon East, she got 6.2 per cent more votes than Federation of Trade Unions honorary president Chan, who used to represent the constituency in Legco.
Lee said she relied on the campaigning of other DAB members who served the community.
Chinese University associate professor Ma Ngok said the central government's liaison office played a role in creating the outcome in Kowloon East.
Ma postulated that some of Chan's district-based supporters might have been allocated to Lee, leading to Lee's overwhelming victory among the three. "That's why [Lau's] 'iron ballots' were transferred to her."
Lee's last-minute call for support might also have persuaded some undecided DAB supporters, he said.