Democrats see tough battle in district council polls, while DAB fields more new faces The city's two big political parties will go head to head in 52 of the 405 constituencies up for grabs in next month's district council elections, the candidates lineup unveiled yesterday shows. The Democratic Party is fielding 108 candidates in the November 18 polls, while the Beijing-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong will field 177. They will contest the 405 elected seats in the 18 districts. Some analysts see the Democrats facing a tough battle, despite a landslide victory in the last district council polls in 2003. The last elections were held in the wake of the July 1, 2003 march, when more than 500,000 people took to the streets to protest against a bid by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to introduce national security legislation. That legislation, known as Article 23, was eventually withdrawn. 'We understand it is not going to be easy this time. The effect of the July 1 march has almost died out,' Lee Wing-tat, the Democratic Party's former leader, said. 'We are sending fewer candidates than we did last time. We want to be more selective, because we want to field those with a better chance of winning,' said Mr Lee, speaking after a pre-election campaign to introduce the party's candidates yesterday. The Democratic Party fielded 120 candidates in the 2003 polls, of which 95 won seats. The DAB had 206 candidates, but only 62 won. Mr Lee declined to speculate on the outcome of the elections, but said: 'If we can obtain more or less the same number of seats, perhaps it can be said to be successful.' The Democratic Party is part of the pan-democrat camp, which will be fielding about 290 candidates in the polls. Li Pang-kwong, a political scientist at Lingnan University, said the political atmosphere had changed. 'Instead of just voting for anti-Beijing candidates, voters are beginning to look at candidates' track records in district-level work.' Mr Lee admitted the DAB did better at community work than the Democrats, which he blamed on a lack of resources. 'After all, in district-level elections you need to do more than shout pro-democracy slogans to win,' he said. A core theme of the Democrats' platform is universal suffrage by 2012, while the DAB has opted to focus on livelihood issues. DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said the party believed the district council elections should be more about local community works. 'We want to present our candidates as down-to-earth guys, who are not only good at shouting slogans.' Mr Tam said the DAB would field more new faces after being dealt a blow in 2003. Of its 177 candidates, 60 are newcomers. This compares with only 24 newcomers from the 108 to be fielded by the Democratic Party. DAB vice-chairman Ip Kwok-him said the party could not grow if it did not give younger members a chance to run for office. Mr Ip was defeated by pro-democracy candidate Cyd Ho Sau-lan and lost his Central and Western district council seat in the 2003 poll. He plans to stand in the same constituency. Ms Ho has said she had no plans to seek another term. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party has said it plans to field 60 candidates. The Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood is planning to field 38 candidates, and the Civic Party plans to field 41. Nominations for the polls open tomorrow and close on October 15.