Record 292 sign up for Legco poll

Colleen Lee

A record 292 candidates will battle it out for just 54 seats in next month's election for the expanded Legislative Council.

As the two-week nomination period closed last night, 219 candidates had signed up to fight for the 35 directly elected seats. They will run on 69 slates, up from the 53 which contested the last election, when only 30 seats were available.

The most intense race will take place in New Territories East - where 74 candidates on 20 lists will battle for nine seats. Some 16 slates will fight for nine seats in New Territories West and 14 lists will contest seven seats on Hong Kong Island.

But much attention will focus on the political heavyweights battling it out for the five new 'super seats' in the functional constituency for district councils - so called because they will be elected by a city-wide ballot of the 3.2 million voters without a vote in any other functional constituency.

The pan-democratic and Beijing loyalist camps are both seeking to win three of the five seats. The Democratic Party is fielding its chairman, Albert Ho Chun-yan, and lawmaker James To Kun-sun on separate slates, while Frederick Fung Kin-kee of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood will also run.

They will take on Federation of Trade Unions honorary president Chan Yuen-han and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong vice-chairman, Lau Kong-wah, as well as a DAB slate headed by vice-chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king.

Wan Chai district councillor Pamela Peck Wan-kam will run as an independent, but the Dutch-born Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman, who has quit the Civic Party, confirmed he would not run. Seven slates will contest the 'super seats'.

In some geographical constituencies, bigger parties are planning to run more than one slate, hoping to take advantage of a quirk in the electoral system which can make it easier for a party to elect lawmakers on separate slates rather than electing more than one lawmaker on a single slate.

Under the list system used in the city, the top candidate on a slate is elected if their vote reaches a minimum quota, based on the number of votes cast and the number of seats available. The second candidate on a list is elected if the votes left over after the quota is deducted also reaches the quota.

But most of those elected will not reach the quota and seats will be filled according to which slate has the next most votes. This gives highly organised parties an advantage as they can effectively split votes between lists.

The DAB is running the most candidates, with three slates in New Territories West and two each in New Territories East and Hong Kong Island, with 56 candidates in total. The party fielded only one slate per constituency and 32 candidates in 2008.

The Democratic Party, which enjoyed success by fielding split lists in the two New Territories constituencies four years ago, will put up 36 candidates on eight slates in geographical constituencies.

The Civic Party will field 10 candidates for the directly elected seats and two for functional constituencies. Both parties will compete for support with the radical pan-democrats People Power and the League of Social Democrats, which will field their own lists in geographical constituencies.

As nominations closed last night, another record was set as 16 candidates secured functional constituency seats after being nominated unopposed, up from 14 four years ago.


The number of lists vying for 35 directly elected seats in the September

- There were 53 lists four years ago