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Legislative Council elections 2016

Candidates stick to their strategies despite Hong Kong Island’s ageing voter cohort

Since 2012, the number of young voters on the island has fallen while the elderly have increased, causing uncertainty over how the geographical constituency might play out on polling day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 8:01am

With one in three voters aged above 60, the pan-democrats’ former stronghold of Hong Kong Island is changing and is now one of the oldest of the city’s five geographical constituencies.

But instead of adapting to the shift and directing their campaigns to attract elderly votes, candidates from both sides of the political divide are pitching to the masses, hoping their message appeals to people of all ages and social backgrounds.

“We are a party that appeals to people across social classes and age groups,” Civic Party’s 44-year-old vice-chairwoman Tanya Chan said.

Chan added that her team had been making an effort to use social media to reach out to younger voters.

The pan-democrats are aiming to keep their three seats in the Hong Kong Island constituency. However, the changing voter demographics cast doubt on which way it might go.

The number of seats in the area has been cut from seven to six due to a sluggish 3.5 per cent increase in voter population since the 2012 elections, compared to the citywide average of 9 per cent. Meanwhile, the proportion of young voters in the constituency is falling.

Out of some 627,800 voters, only 19.8 per cent are aged between 18 and 35 – down 0.9 percentage points compared to 2012. Forty-seven per cent are aged between 36 and 60 – down 3.1 percentage points, while 33.2 per cent are aged above 60 – up 4 percentage points.

Only Kowloon East, with 33.24 per cent, has a slightly bigger proportion of elderly voters. Citywide, 29.3 per cent of Hong Kong voters are in that age group.

Chan, the New People’s Party’s Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, ­independent Ricky Wong Wai-kay and Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong are the most popular candidates on Hong Kong Island, according to the University of Hong Kong’s rolling poll.

But with competition in the constituency far greater than in 2012, opinion polls were not a reliable measure, Chan said.

“The opinion polls are for reference only ... because with [15] tickets on the island this year, the situation is very complicated.”

That compares with 14 tickets which contested the seven seats in 2012.

With Chan seeing little room for complacency, lagging candidates such as the Beijing-loyalist Federation of Trade Unions’ Kwok Wai-keung, Labour Party incumbent Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Democrat Ted Hui Chi-fung and Demosisto chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung are arguably placed in a dogfight for the last two seats.

Kwok, 38, said he hoped the FTU’s platform could attract voters regardless of their age.

“We emphasise on issues such as retirement protection ... I hope the elderly can see our sincerity and vote for us,” he said.

“But our manifesto includes residents from different age groups.”

While some political commentators have argued that elderly voters are more inclined towards voting for the pro-establishment camp, Labour Party incumbent Cyd Ho disagrees.

“Many ageing voters belong to the so-called ‘junior elderly’ group. They are well-educated ... and they witnessed the period when Hong Kong enjoyed more press freedom. I believe many of them support our camp,” she said.

Noting that the pro-establishment camp was expected to win the majority of the seats in the 35 functional constituencies, Ho said she hoped the pan-democrats would win at least three seats on the island, and a total of 18 out of the 35 geographical seats up for grabs.

With a majority in both the geographical and functional sectors, Ho warned that “Beijing loyalists can amend Legco’s rules to invalidate filibustering” as a tool to block controversial government bills.

The Democratic Party’s Ted Hui also hoped he could attract new voters or those disappointed with other pan-democrat groups.

“I hope they can see that rather than talking about independence, we emphasise on safeguarding core values, as well as solving livelihood issues we have nowadays,” Hui said.

He is one of three Democrat candidates supported by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang during canvassing. He is hoping that with Chan’s backing, he can appeal to middle-class and moderate voters.

For a full list of candidates, please see http://multimedia.scmp.com/legcocandidates/