By the time the district council election nominations closed two weeks ago, we could safely predict that the pro-democracy camp would lose a few seats in the elections.
On the surface, the reason appears simple: there is too much competition within the dissident camp. In the good old days, when the Democratic Party was acknowledged as leader of the camp, it set the rules for other members to obey. The rules seemed fair: don't challenge the incumbents within the pan-democratic camp. Instead, take on the common enemies - the pro-establishment candidates. Obviously, these rules favoured the Democratic Party, which occupies the largest number of seats in the district councils.
For a long time, other parties in the camp didn't dispute the rules, and went along with them.
Four years ago, however, the League of Social Democrats saw through the hegemonic nature of this arrangement, but at that time was still too weak to shake up the status quo.
This time, several new and apparently more radical dissident parties are challenging Democratic Party candidates in a number of constituencies. They are determined to 'punish' the democrat 'traitors' who they claim sold out their principles by supporting the government's constitutional reform plan.
These democratic rebels will not win many votes from pro-establishment supporters. But what they can do is split the dissident tickets in the small constituencies, thus benefiting the pro-establishment candidates there.
The Democratic Party is understandably furious about that. To many outsiders, too, this seems a highly emotional and somewhat short-sighted strategy on the part of a bunch of young hotheads, and is counterproductive to the democratic cause. It seems foolhardy because the inexperienced candidates who are parachuted onto the scattered battlefields simply have no chance of winning.
So why do it? It is then you realise that the leaders among these 'young' radicals are in their late fifties. They are obviously not politically naive.
While these rookie radicals do not stand a chance of winning this election battle, they would nevertheless manage to divide the democratic market and carve out small enclaves of supporters for themselves in their respective constituencies with minimal effort and cost.
Come the Legislative Council election next year, proportional representation is an entirely new game. In much bigger constituencies, the list that gets the highest number of votes can get one or, at the most, two seats. The rest are up for grabs.
With 10 new seats added, there are a lot out there to be grabbed, and any list that manages to get 7 to 8 per cent will be guaranteed a seat in the new legislature. If my guess is right, there will be quite a few more radicals in the next Legco session.
Seen from this angle, this is a brilliant two-step election strategy on the part of the radical pan-democrats, and, if executed correctly, could yield bountiful results. It would not lead to the cannibalisation that the Democratic Party fears, because the additional seats would not be won at the expense of other democratic candidates.
And the controversy would draw plenty of first-time voters who might otherwise not come to the polling stations. A great majority of these young voters would never cast their ballot for the pro-establishment camp.
Win the battle, but lose the war. This might not be the most apt description for the situation for the pro-establishment camp, but it is close. Unlike the dissidents, they never come up with innovative strategies.
Out of the present 60 seats in Legco, the pro-establishment camp claims to hold a small majority of 37. In the next session, there will be 70 seats. How many can they win?
Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development