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Legislative Council elections 2016

Strategic voting fails pan-democrat candidates in Hong Kong Legislative Council elections

Pro-establishment candidates did proportionately better by putting forward fewer lists, while there were too many pro-democracy and localist hopefuls

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2016, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 9:41am

Strategic voting was in great play in the Legislative Council elections last Sunday, but pro-democracy candidates still had a lower success rate in winning seats due to severe infighting and a lack of accurate information flow within the camp.

Under the system of proportional representation adopted by Hong Kong, votes do not equal seats and parties try hard to maximise their votes strategically – sometimes to the extent of voting for candidates other than their first choice because their first choice already has enough votes. Alternatively, they may give their votes to someone else to thwart a popular candidate they dislike.

Last Sunday, the traditional pan-democrats and localists secured 54.8 per cent of total votes in the elections and won 19 directly elected seats, while the pro-establishment camp bagged 40.3 per cent of votes and took 16 seats.

Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting advocated what he called the “Thunder Go” plan ahead of the citywide polls, calling on the public to vote strategically.

His team launched a smartphone program to collect voters’ preferences for the candidates.

It also came up with a list of “recommended candidates” hours before the polls closed on Sunday, advising voters to back those who they said were likely to be in the fight for the last seat.

Yet the election results suggest that the strategic voting did not work out well for the pan-democrats and localists in New Territories West and Kowloon East, where they failed to win the majority of seats despite bagging 54.8 per cent and 57.5 per cent of total votes respectively.

In one extreme case in New Territories West, four pro-democracy candidates – the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan, Wong Yun-tat of the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre, the League of Social Democrats’ Raphael Wong Ho-ming and Frederick Fung Kin-kee of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood – together garnered 97,524 votes, but none was returned.

Beijing-friendly Junius Ho Kwan-yiu received 35,657 votes and unseated Lee by 5,508 votes.

Apart from the New People’s Party’s Michael Tien Puk-sun, who received 70,646 votes, the other three elected Beijing-friendly lawmakers from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and Federation of Trade Unions garnered votes ranging from 49,680 to 58,673.

Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok said the reason for the pan-democrat setback – despite receiving majority vote shares – is that they had too many candidate lists.

A study by the Post found that 59 per cent of 27 candidates leaning towards the establishment won the race in the five geographical constituencies, compared to 43 per cent of the 44 pan-democrat and localist candidates.

Adding to the problem was the “Thunder Go” scheme, which Ma criticised as unscientific.

“The data they got was drawn from voters who joined the scheme on their own initiative, so it was not a random sample,” he said.

But the scheme organisers treated the data as if it was randomly sampled, then recommended certain candidates and called on voters across the city to vote for them, which ended up twisting the election results, he said.

“For New Territories West, why did ‘Thunder Go’ suggest people vote for the Civic Party’s Kwok Ka-ki but not Labour’s Lee Cheuk-yan? What’s the basis? It’s not clear,” he said. “Some politicians I talked to tend to think the scheme has its political agenda.”

The pro-Beijing camp managed to “distribute” the votes more evenly among its candidates because they had many supportive organisations catering to the likes of women, youth and the elderly. They urged members to vote for them, Ma added.

Democratic Party veteran Sin Chung-kai, who was in charge of the party’s election strategy, stopped short of saying they were the victims of “Thunder Go”, but just “a party affected by it”.

Several Democrat candidates, including party vice-chairman Andrew Wan Siu-kin running in New Territories West, were forced to make an emergency appeal on Sunday as “Thunder Go” recommended people to vote for other aspirants who were “less safe”.

“They had good will in helping the pan-democrats gain more seats ... but on what basis did they come up with the list of recommended candidates [to vote for]? Did they ensure their program would not be hacked?” Sin said.

He called on Tai to come ­forward and offer the public an ­explanation.