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Legislative Council elections 2016

With many young additions to Hong Kong’s Legco, analysts warn ‘old faces’ may run into trouble

DAB leader defends the pro-establishment camp’s conservative tactics, but academics question this safe approach as young politicians enter the scene

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2016, 11:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2016, 10:14am

Despite the split in the pan-democratic camp in Sunday’s elections, the pro-establishment bloc does not appear to be a beneficiary as its share of the popular vote dipped and it also lost a geographical constituency seat.

Its vote share in the geographical constituencies shrank from 44.1 per cent in the last polls in 2012 to about 40.3 per cent.

While leaders of the camp declared they were pleased with their performance, analysts say the pro-establishment parties have to conduct not just a postmortem examination but a round of soul-searching.

At first glance, the pro-Beijing parties did not appear to have suffered a real setback in the elections. They had some big wins in strongholds such as Kowloon East, where they collected 45.23 per cent of the votes, netting three of the five seats with 146,361 votes.

Rise of localists in Hong Kong polls set to bring headaches for Beijing, analysts say

The party list headed by Wilson Or Chong-shing of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong managed to collect the lion’s share of the votes – 51,516. The pan-democrats ended up with two seats after taking 95,717 votes.

The pro-establishment camp also secured three of the six seats in the Hong Kong Island constituency, with a total of 147,837 votes. Its rivals won the other three seats with 128,721 votes. In Kowloon West, the two lists in the pro-Beijing camp all both seats.

The backing of party elders produced mixed results. The Liberal Party’s Dominic Lee Tsz-king failed in his bid for a New Territories East seat, despite the support of party veteran James Tien Pei-chun. On the hand, Eunice Yung Hoi-yan of the New People’s Party, widely seen as a protégé of party chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, managed to secure a seat.

Overall, there was a feeling of more of the same from the pro-establishment camp, analysts said.

Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Polytechnic University, said: “With the rise of the young localists, the pro-establishment camp is still mainly offering us the old faces. This could emerge as a fatally weak link in the next elections if the camp fails to find ways to mend it.”

The “old faces” effect is especially pronounced in the functional constituencies,where the camp mainly refielded old incumbents. Abraham Razack of the government-friendly Business and Professionals Alliance has served for 16 years as a lawmaker for the real estate and construction sector.

Twelve candidates, all from the pro-establishment camp, in 10 of the 29 functional constituencies were returned uncontested. These are: Heung Yee Kuk, insurance, labour, real estate and construction, commercial (second), industrial (first), industrial (second), finance, import and export and District Council (first).

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But the pro-Beijing bloc lost in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency, where Tony Tse Wai-chuen was unseated by pan-democrat Edward Yiu Chung-yim.

Dr Li Pang-kwong, director of Lingnan University’s public governance programme, said: “That should be an alarm bell to the pro-establishment camp. While they cannot expand their influence in the professionals sectors like accountancy or information technology, this time they have lost one more professional sector at the hands of the pan-democrats.”

Defending the fielding of incumbents, DAB leader Starry Lee Wai-king said: “It is part of our strategy. There are too many variables in this year’s elections – we have the localists, pan-democrats splitting into many tickets. So, we want to play it safe.”

She cited as an example her party’s decision to only field one list of candidates for the Hong Kong Island constituency.

While this conservative approach helped the pan-democrats and localists to secure the so-called “critical minority” in the legislature, they would still be straightjacketed by the so-called “split-voting” system.

Under this controversial arrangement, a motion put forward by a lawmaker must be approved by a majority of all legislators in both the geographical and functional constituencies.

The system means that it is possible that even when more lawmakers vote “yes” than “no” to a particular motion, it can fail because of abstentions.

Both analysts said it was too early to say if the election results would have any immediate impact on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s chances of securing another term.

In an earlier interview with the Post, Leung said he might consider whether to seek another term after September, though he denied the decision would have anything to do with the Legco polls.