THE past week's most critical piece of election commentary in the Chinese press has an unlikely target: the chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing. His fault lies in talking too much, says the City University's Ivan Choi Chi-keung. Writing in Ming Pao, Choi takes Mr Justice Woo to task for: asking teachers to reflect on their poor turnout at a poll to select representatives for the teaching sector in the Election Committee; chastising academics for publicising survey findings which show most voters do not understand the proportional representation system; criticising the media as sensational and misleading for reporting such findings; lambasting newspaper columnists for suggesting how voters can vote strategically to influence the outcome of the election; and engaging in a war of words with Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming on whether voters need to understand the voting system when casting their ballots. Choi says the law merely empowers the Electoral Affairs Commission to draw the boundaries of the geographical constituencies, organise and monitor the election, and ensure it is held in a fair, open and honest manner. The commission's job is not to help boost the turnout rate or defend the new voting system. Choi likens Mr Justice Woo to a referee in a soccer game who often clashes with players and spectators and who thus risks compromising his independence. The election's dull atmosphere continues to attract attention. Wong Kar-ying of the Chinese University's Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, attributes the lack of interest to the de-politicisation. He notes in his Apple Daily column that what is special about this election is that it is held at a time when Hong Kong has returned to Chinese sovereignty for almost a year. Hong Kong people have lived under 'one country, two systems' and their experience so far is positive. The mainland Government has not intervened in Hong Kong affairs or harshly suppressed Hong Kong people's freedom of speech or assembly as was feared, contributing to the de-politicisation of this election, he says. Wong notes colonial elections were highly politicised because people's anxieties about the future were exploited by political parties, which were polarised into 'pro-democracy' and 'pro-China' camps. Now, he says, the parties can no longer find any political issues which touch voters' hearts. Rather, in the light of the economic crisis, the parties have competed to become the representatives of the grassroots. But since their platforms on livelihood issues hardly differ, they fail to cultivate recognition or a sense of participation among voters, says Wong. In Ming Pao, Natalie Chan Mung-sze of the University of Hong Kong's Social Science Research Centre reports most people still do not know much about the election. A survey early this month found more than 80 per cent of voters did not know the district elections would use the proportional representation or list voting system and more than 70 per cent knew nothing or little about the voting system. Chan says some surveys conducted between last August and last month have consistently found almost 70 per cent of respondents would vote for the candidates rather than parties. Using a different approach, a survey conducted in early May also found about 55 per cent of voters would consider the personal attributes of the candidates; only 19 per cent and nine per cent would mainly consider the party or the composition of the list in deciding how they would vote. These findings confirmed most people 'recognise' the candidates, not the parties. Apart from the Democratic Party, most voters seem not to know about the other parties, notes Chan. Although directly elected seats will form only one third of Legco, Lee Yee says in Apple Daily that this is no reason for voters not to vote. Lee calls on people to indicate that Hong Kong people cherish their political and democratic rights. Lee says Hong Kong people should try to boost the turnout rate to enhance the prospect of expanding the number of directly elected seats. 'In choosing Legco members, the most important consideration is they are able to check any abuse of powers by the administration and to establish a democratic mechanism to safeguard Hong Kong's freedom and rule of law,' says Lee. Even though the election takes place today, Ming Pao 's Mok Ming-sze has already focused on assessing the possibility of the emergence of a new opposition coalition in Legco which may threaten Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's administration. Mok notes the 'non-democrats' have advantages in Legco. While this will isolate the 'democrats', it will also help forge unity. Although the new scenario helps nurture talents among the 'non-democrats', it will not lower the value of the 'democrats' in the overall strategy of the 'non-democrats'. Among the 'non-democrats' in Legco, Mok notes the independents and members of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance and Heung Yee Kuk are constrained either by their small numbers or lack of political ambition. But it is possible the more ambitious parties, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, may want to project their image as parties capable of running Hong Kong by choosing to draw a clear line between them and Mr Tung and remould their relationship with the 'democrats' to isolate the Chief Executive.