Hong Kong’s ‘King of Votes’ in 2012 election scrapes home this time after tactical ploy almost misfires
Democrat James To narrowly beats Beijing-loyalist to win fifth ‘super seat’ after supporters switch to less popular colleague
In a dramatic twist, veteran Democrat James To Kun-sun – the former “King of Votes” who had led in opinion polls for weeks – found himself in a tough battle with Beijing-loyalist Wong Kwok-hing fighting for the last of the five “super seats” in the citywide polls.
The incumbent lawmaker only managed to breathe a sigh of relief after returning officers announced he had beaten the Federation of Trade Unions heavyweight with a razor-thin margin of 10,694 votes at 7pm on Monday, ensuring the pan-democrats retained the majority of the five “super seats”.
To had made an emergency appeal to voters on Sunday night after finding many of his supporters had voted for his younger and less popular colleague, Roy Kwong Chun-yu, as they thought To was a sure bet. He even changed his Facebook profile picture to black right after polls closed at 10.30pm in protest at the party’s unsatisfactory way of allocating votes.
“My colleagues, campaigners and volunteers are very angry … and I’ve not dared to convince or comfort them as they could not offer a reason as to why a capable lawmaker would have to lose,” To said late on Sunday night.
He complained that some campaigners from Kwong’s team had canvassed votes in New Territories East, which the party had allocated to him alongside Hong Kong Island.
The race for the five coveted “super seats” are for those candidates who are district councillors and elected by all voters who do not have vote in a traditional functional constituency. It ended up being a contest between three lists of candidates from each main political bloc after three pan-democrat underdogs threw in the towel days ahead of the polls in a bid to ease the infighting.
The sudden pull-out gave a strong boost to Kwong, who was running neck and neck with Holden Chow Ho-ding, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
Kwong became the new “King of Votes” by bagging 491,667, more than double To’s total.
Chow said: “It has been an uphill battle for me and the sudden pull-out of a few pan-democrats had a complicated impact. I am sad that Wong could not get elected.”
Kwong’s ally Leung Yiu-chung, of the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre, also won with 303,457 votes.
The DAB made a comeback this year by winning two “super seats”, with party chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king and rising star Chow bagging 304,222 and 264,339 votes respectively.
Following his victory, To, a lawmaker since 1991, said it did not matter who got most votes.
“The most important thing today is that the pan-democrats won three [super seats] … this is the most important result today,” he said. “Hongkongers have won in this election.”
Kwong said the results showed that Hongkongers did not want Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to serve a second term.
Wong, an outspoken critic of the filibustering in the legislature, apologised to the voters for failing to retain his seat and vowed to serve Hongkongers in different roles.
The three pan-democratic aspirants who halted their electioneering – the Civic Party’s Sumly Chan Yuen-sum, NeoDemocrat Kwan Wing-yip and Kalvin Ho Kai-ming, of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood –garnered 69,117 votes in total.
Ho said it would be more desirable for the camp to coordinate three lists of candidates ahead of the elections instead of having hopefuls pulling out abruptly amid the race.
“I have no choice but to sacrifice as it is clear we would deal a collective blow [in a six-strong infighting],” he said. “This is perhaps an ideal ending for pan-democrats to retain the three super seats,” he said.