Legislative Council elections 2016

Can pan-democrats regain lost ground in NT West after infighting hurt camp in 2012 Hong Kong elections?

They failed to win a majority of seats in the constituency four years ago as allies resorted to ‘selfish’ tactics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 2:36pm

In New Territories West, once a stronghold of the pan-democrats, all eyes in the Legislative Council elections next month are on whether the camp can regain a majority of seats after unprecedented infighting four years ago.

Pan-democrats returned only four of nine lawmakers in 2012, leaving them in a minority in the constituency for the first time even though they secured 54.6 per cent of votes.

The Civic Party adopted what was criticised as a selfish tactic by putting popular democracy icon Audrey Eu Yuet-mee in second place in a slate headed by Kwok Ka-ki, claiming they could win two seats while acknowledging this would be extremely difficulty under the proportional representation system.

Only Kwok was returned, although the slate canvassed 72,185 votes – 38,408 more than Leung Che-cheung, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who grabbed the last seat.

The Democratic Party, which used to have two seats in New Territories West, was completely uprooted, with veteran lawmaker Lee Wing-tat failing to retain his seat by a razor-thin margin of 985 votes. The DAB managed to split the votes evenly and won all the three lists it fielded.

This time the Democrats are fielding only Andrew Wan Siu-kin for fear of votes being split within the party, but Wan still faces an uphill battle given he is up against nine allies and localists.

They include veteran Frederick Fung Kin-kee, who joins the contest after losing his entry ticket to the “super seat” constituency after his defeat in the district council elections in November. Five “super seats” in the district council functional constituency will be elected on September 4 by 3.47 million voters not eligible to vote in trade-based functional constituencies.

“Without the entry of Fung – who enjoys citywide popularity – in New Territories West, the fortunes of his allies would be much better,” Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok told the Post.

Ma said the pan-democratic candidates limited themselves to a smaller pool of supporters because of their similar backgrounds.

New Territories West is the second poorest of the five geographical constituencies, with a median household monthly income of HK$19,620 – slightly lower than the overall median of HK$20,500 but higher than the HK$16,480 in Kowloon East. A number of public housing estates are located in Kwai Tsing and Tin Shui Wai.

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Ma said at least six pan-democrats – Wan, Fung, the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan, League of Social Democrats’ Raphael Wong Ho-ming, Wong Yun-tat of the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre and independent Eddie Chu Hoi-dick – shared grass-roots backgrounds to advocate for low-income groups and workers. Kwok of the Civic Party appeared to be the only pan-democrat representing the middle-class.

The 70,000 voters who backed the Civic Party in 2012 might actually swing to Michael Tien Puk-sun instead of other pro-democracy candidates if they find no alternative [in the camp]
Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok

In previous contests, Democratic Party veterans Albert Ho Chun-yan, a solicitor, with Lee Wing-tat in second place, appealed to middle class voters, Ma said, unlike Wan, a social worker.

“The 70,000 voters who backed the Civic Party in 2012 might actually swing to Michael Tien Puk-sun instead of other pro-democracy candidates if they find no alternative [in the camp],” he said, referring to the moderate pro-establishment incumbent of the New People’s Party.

Meanwhile, the DAB has also adopted a very safe strategy by fielding only two instead of three lists as its former chairman Tam Yiu-chung is retiring from the legislature.

That might help outspoken solicitor Junius Ho Kwan-yiu to grab the last seat for the pro-establishment bloc.