The Democratic Party will be the biggest winner in Sunday's district council elections, according to a research institute's prediction that 60 per cent of the party's candidates will win a seat.
Hong Kong Transition Project predicted yesterday that 80 of the Democratic Party's 132 candidates, or 60.6 per cent, will be victorious.
That is well ahead of the 21.1 per cent success rate predicted for the combined forces of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and Federation of Trade Unions - many candidates are representing both Beijing loyalist parties simultaneously. Only 50 of their 237 candidates would win seats, the project said. The group describes itself as a non-partisan research organisation.
The figures exclude wins by uncontested candidates.
Pro-government parties might suffer after fielding many young and inexperienced candidates, said project member Dr Sonny Lo Shiu-hing, an associate dean at the Institute of Education. Also, rivalry within the pan-democratic camp may be less damaging than expected.
The predictions were based on comparisons of the perceived worthiness of candidates - which drew upon their work performance in the community and success in previous elections. The actual results could be different, Lo conceded, because of the large number of 'iron-clad' pro-government voters who might not consider candidates' merits.
Lo predicted victories for 17 out of 26 candidates from the pan-democratic Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, and for 14 out of 21 candidates fielded by Civil Force - a group linked to the DAB.
The Civic Party might win up to 19 seats among 41 candidates, while People Power would win only three seats from 59 candidates, he said. The Civic Party could win five more seats if it was not hurt by two recent controversies - its championing of court challenges that opened the door to right of abode for foreign domestic helpers and briefly blocked the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, Lo said.
The rivalry between two sides in the pan-democratic camp was less fierce than expected, but splitting supporters' votes could still cost the camp eight to 10 seats, Lo said.
Despite the generally favourable predictions, Democratic Party vice-chairman Sin Chung-kai said the party was facing an unprecedented crisis and many challenges.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said comments from voters in the community painted a gloomier picture. 'We are spending a great deal of effort to explain our stance in the right of abode case,' Leong said. 'But time is running short ... we would be more confident if we had two more weeks to explain the case.'
Meanwhile, pan-democrats urged voters to be wary of suspicious exit polling. They said some 'so-called pollsters' would use the findings for campaigning purposes.
'We are worried that some organisations will lure voters to disclose their voting preference in the name of academic purposes, but then send the data to political organisations for last-minute vote-canvassing,' said lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan.