image

Legislative Council elections 2016

Five pan-democrats quit Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections in face of grim polls

Contenders including Paul Zimmerman and two super seat aspirants will stop campaigning in the hope of deflecting support to fellow pan-democrats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2016, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 September, 2016, 1:56pm

Five pan-democratic candidates, including Paul Zimmerman and two “super seat” underdogs, pulled out of Sunday’s Legislative Council elections last night.

The unprecedented move in local politics was seen as a last-minute effort to unite the fragmented bloc in the face of fierce competition from the pro-establishment camp.

Adding to the pessimistic picture for the pan-democrats, the latest rolling poll suggested that they would not be able to retain a simple majority in Legco’s geographical constituencies.

The pan-democrats must end their foolish game

The pan-democrats need to win 24 seats to hold on to a key bulwark against their pro-establishment rivals’ domination of both halves of the 70-strong legislature – the directly elected geographical constituencies and the trade-based functional constituencies.

Commentators said it was unclear whether the last-minute pullouts would work out in the pan-democrats’ favour. Under electoral rules, verified candidates cannot abandon the race at this stage, but can stop campaigning.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of government think tank the Central Policy Unit, said time was limited for voters to fully understand their intentions and reconsider their choices.

But the five could set the example for more underperforming pan-democrats, he said. In the best-case scenario, they could gain a few more seats if more withdrawals consolidated votes for stronger candidates.

Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung could not recall something like this ever happening in the past.

Photo finish: tight race for last super seat in Hong Kong elections

“This could boost the pan-democrats’ image and morale – but not necessarily the results,” he said.

The chain of unexpected events was sparked by Suzanne Wu Sui-shan, the Labour Party chairwoman contesting in Kowloon East constituency, who said she wanted to set an example for her pan-democratic allies to “focus on the whole picture”.

Zimmerman and fellow Hong Kong Island contender Chui Chi-kin, who beat DAB lawmaker Christopher Chung Shu-kun in last year’s district council polls, have stopped electioneering.

“I hope you will all consider casting your vote for democrats who are almost in,” Zimmerman said in a statement, suggesting his supporters switch to Demosisto candidate Nathan Law Kwun-chung.

The biggest surprise, however, was the pullout of the pair running for super seats, a functional constituency sector that provides a second vote for 3.5 million registered voters in the geographical constituencies.

Explained: how Hong Kong’s legislative candidates are voted in

The Civic Party’s Sumly Chan Yuen-sum, who funded his own campaign as the party initially opposed his electioneering, made the announcement five hours after last appearing in Central to canvass votes.

“[We] urge voters to utilise their wisdom and ensure that the pan-democrats retain three super seats,” party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit said.

Also giving up campaigning for a super seat was Kalvin Ho Kai-ming, of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood.

The pan-democrats’ prospects of retaining bargaining power in the legislature looked grim, according to the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion poll yesterday.

Conducted between August 21 and September 1, with a sample size of 5,300, the poll suggested that traditional pan-democrats would only win 11 seats in the geographical constituencies. Even after taking into account six localists likely to be returned, the total was still down from 18 in 2012, meaning they would lose their veto power.

The withdrawal of the two pan-democrats from the super seat race could boost support for Democrat Roy Kwong, Choy said, but that advantage would be harder to extend to other districts.

The poll gave veteran pan-democratic lawmakers Frederick Fung Kin-kee and Lee Cheuk-yan a slim chance of winning.

For a full list of election candidates, click here.