Likening himself to an incinerator, former talk-show host Albert Cheng King-hon has said he was made 'not-in-my-backyard' unwelcome by the pro-democracy hopefuls contesting the geographical constituency seats in next month's Legislative Council elections. He decided to land on the Kowloon East battlefield, he claimed, only after it emerged that his candidacy met with the least opposition from aspirants of the pan-democracy camp in the five-seat contest. Superficially, Mr Cheng may be right. Under the original game plan of the pan-democracy camp, analysts say it can only secure two out of five seats. They are Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming and Alan Leong Kah-kit of the Article 45 Concern Group. Wu Chi-wai, who ranks after Mr Li, has been described as the weak link, with only a half chance. Given Mr Cheng's popularity, his candidacy will significantly boost the chance of the pan-democracy camp to get at least three seats, with either Mr Cheng or Mr Li possibly able to get a high enough vote share for their teammates to get the fourth seat. Second on Mr Cheng's list is Andrew To Kwan-hang of The Frontier. Under their best scenario, candidates of the three pan-democracy lists will not only be able to oust Chan Kam-lam of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, but may frustrate the efforts of popular unionist Chan Yuen-han to grab an extra seat for her teammate, Lam Man-fai. With four weeks to go before polling day on September 12, there are looming fears that fierce infighting among the pan-democracy candidates looks inevitable after Mr Cheng, better known as 'Taipan', confirmed his candidacy. Polls conducted after nominations closed showed Mr Cheng had emerged as the wild card, undercutting support from pro-Beijing rivals and pan-democracy aspirants. Support for Mr Leong fell sharply and ratings for Mr Li's team also dropped slightly, even before Mr Cheng geared up his campaign. A poll conducted by the Democratic Party shows Ms Chan's list still leads on 32 per cent, down from about 40 per cent. Mr Li's list trails with 24 per cent, followed by Mr Cheng (20 per cent), Mr Leong (15 per cent), and Mr Chan Kam-lam (8 per cent). An insider at the Democratic Party said another internal poll showed 80 per cent of votes for Mr Cheng would come from supporters of the pan-democracy camp. Only 10 to 20 per cent of respondents said they would have voted for the pro-Beijing candidates if Mr Cheng had not participated. Mr Cheng's candidacy 'has a positive and negative impact', said Mr Li. 'He can boost the voter turnout, thus diluting the 'iron votes' of the pro-Beijing candidates. The negative side is that the competition for votes among us will result in a high wastage of remainder votes. If that is the case, the DAB's Chan Kam-lam stands to benefit with a low percentage of votes.' The Kowloon East battle has emerged as perhaps the most fascinating race in the 2004 elections, with two of the five seats unpredictable because of the Cheng 'wild card' and, more important, the list-voting arrangement under the proportional representation system in geographical polls. Under the game plan, the threshold of vote share for getting a seat in the five-seat Kowloon East constituency is 20 per cent. For the six-seat Hong Kong Island constituency the relevant threshold is 16.6 per cent; for the eight-seat New Territories West, 12.4 per cent; for the seven-seat New Territories East, 14.2 per cent; and the four-seat Kowloon West, 25 per cent. Any candidate at the top of a list who passes the threshold will get a seat. The rest of the seats will be allocated under the largest-remainder formula - which list has the most votes left after the threshold is deducted. Based on the Democrats' latest poll, Ms Chan's list gets 32 per cent in Kowloon East; Mr Li, 24 per cent; Mr Cheng, 20 per cent; Mr Leong, 15 per cent; and Mr Chan, 8 per cent. If the poll were the actual election result, Ms Chan, Mr Li and Mr Cheng would each get a seat, since their votes have all reached or surpassed the 20 per cent threshold. This leaves Ms Chan's list with 12 per cent, Mr Li's with 4 per cent, and Mr Cheng's with no votes remaining. So, under the formula, the fourth and fifth seat would go to Mr Leong, with his 15 per cent, and Mr Lam, with the remaining 12 per cent from his teammate's list. 'No one knows how the game will play out until after ballots are counted,' Mr Li said. The Democrat incumbent said he and Ms Chan should be able to get a seat. 'Taipan and Alan Leong face a small risk,' he said. 'The fifth is anybody's guess. It remains unclear whether the pro-Beijing candidates will adopt tactical voting to divert some surplus votes of Chan Yuen-han to Chan Kam-lam.' Ms Chan, who leads by a sizeable margin in opinion polls, has said she would not play the tactical voting game. She hoped to canvass enough votes for her teammate Mr Lam to get a seat under the remainder formula. DAB election strategist Ip Kwok-him said his party did not rule out the possibility of giving tactical advice to their supporters at a later stage. Under the list system of proportional representation, infighting among candidates from the pan-democracy and pro-Beijing camps has been the rule rather than the exception in geographical polls. In Hong Kong Island, the non-affiliated Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and the DAB's Ma Lik and Choy So-yuk will compete for the same pool of voters. The Democrats' Yeung Sum and Martin Lee Chu-ming and Audrey Eu Yuet-mee with Cyd Ho Sau-lan face a similar situation. With the Eu-Ho ticket leading by a big margin, Mr Lee looks vulnerable. No wonder the two teams have used the 'one plus one equals four' formula of tactical voting, hinting to their supporters to split their votes evenly between the two tickets. A key member of the Democratic Party, who preferred anonymity, said he was confident the gap between the two pan-democracy tickets would be shortened after their supporters got the message that the Democrats' list was behind. 'Don't underestimate the wisdom of voters,' he said. 'Rationality will prevail. When they realise their votes can help maximise the number of seats for the whole pan-democracy camp, they will know how to vote tactically. 'The most important thing is that the total vote share of the pan-democracy candidates reaches a certain level. In the case of Hong Kong Island, they will pass the first hurdle if they can keep their support between 55 and 60 per cent in total. The next hurdle is to think of ways of tactical voting to try to even out the votes among the two lists.' Any tactical and co-ordinated voting strategy, however, looks unlikely to work in the Kowloon East constituency, given the complexities and dynamics among the various candidates, according to candidates and analysts. 'Every vote matters to me,' Mr Cheng said. 'I'm worried that people will not vote for me because they take for granted I'm a sure win. There's no brotherhood in elections. This is how all polls ought to be. 'If people ask me how they should vote [because there are three pan-democratic lists], I won't say, 'don't vote for me'. This is totally irresponsible.' He said he was 'not worried' about being 'the bad guy'. 'I take issue with the argument my participation would adversely affect the pan-democracy camp. I said that 100 times; the democrats are not convinced. I'm confident we are able to win three seats. With better co-ordination and less vicious competition, we may get the fourth seat.' Analysts say Ms Eu and other Article 45 Concern Group candidates would pull out all stops to help canvass votes for Mr Leong. Mr Li said it would be difficult to work out a co-ordinated voting strategy as Mr Cheng had said publicly he would not do so. Lee Wing-tat, a vice-chairman of the Democratic Party, said the idea of tactical and co-ordinated voting needed to be explored to maximise the number of seats, given the constraints of the proportional representation system. 'It's easier and more effective if we need only to co-ordinate lists of candidates in our own party,' he said. 'The fact every pro-democracy group wants to get more seats makes co-ordination extremely difficult. 'Put bluntly, co-ordinating votes boils down to the question of who wins and who loses.' List voting with the proportional representation system has been in use since 1998, replacing the 'winner takes all' single seat, single vote system adopted in 1995. Prior to that, every voter had two votes in each constituency. The major merit of the present system is that it ensures a more balanced representation of different forces, particularly non-affiliated and minority groups, in the legislature. The demerit, according to analysts, is that it makes it extremely difficult for major political parties to snap up a majority of seats. Shiu Sin-por, head of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute, dismissed the idea of co-ordinated voting as a gimmick with no substantive impact. He said voting was a solemn civic responsibility. Any campaign to 'direct' people on how to vote might backfire, he said. City University political scientist Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the issue of tactical and co-ordinated voting was less technical than political. 'The crux of the matter is to nurture strong public support for political parties and groups,' he said. The academic said political parties should conduct early studies on tactical voting because the proportional representational system could stay for a long period of time. HOW TO VOTE Each voter can cast only one vote in his or her constituency. Instead of choosing one's favourite candidate, voters can only vote for the list to which the candidate belongs. He or she shall simply take the chop provided and mark a 'tick' in the circle next to the preferred list. The candidates on the list have already agreed among themselves their ranking on the list, which determines their chances of winning in light of the vote share obtained by the entire list.