There was a sense of apathy towards the Legislative Council polls until recently, when the election was fired up by the national education controversy. The awareness of the new "one person, two votes" arrangement has, thankfully, also increased. Political heavyweights on the brink of losing have been crying out for more support in the final days. Hopes are high that today's ballot will draw a large turnout.
It remains unclear whether that will be the case. But there is every reason for voters to exercise their civic duty to vote. The ballot is the outcome of the electoral reforms passed two years ago. For the first time, 3.2 million voters have been given a second vote to return five district councillors to Legco in a citywide ballot for what have been dubbed super seats. Although the vote falls short of universal suffrage, it will give an indication of what may happen when we elect the next chief executive by one person, one vote. The lawmakers elected today will be responsible for shaping the electoral arrangements for universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020.
The majority shunned the ballot box in 2008, when turnout was a modest 45 per cent. One reason for this may have been the limited power vested in lawmakers. The council is often demeaned as a talking shop. The dominance of pro-government members means the legislature is just a rubber stamp in most cases. Recently, the rowdy behaviour of some rebellious lawmakers has further undermined the image of the legislature.
It would be wrong, however, not to seize the opportunity to vote. Although the elections are far from democratic, the ballot is the most powerful means to make a difference. It will determine who will represent the city's seven million people in Legco for the next four years, and whether the council can act effectively as a check and balance against the executive and help Hong Kong move in the right direction. It is important that we use our votes wisely.
At stake is not just the future of individual politicians and parties. The ballot marks an important milestone in our quest for democratic and accountable government. Elections have become part of the fabric of our civil society. Hong Kong's interest is best served by making the election a success. A high turnout will send the right message that Hongkongers embrace democracy - and that we are ready for it.