Edge in incumbency for radical democrats
Elections can be tough on smaller parties and independent candidates who lack the funding and resources of larger parties.
However, the NeoDemocrats, set up by a group of disillusioned young Democratic Party radicals, is an exception.
The group is running in next month's district council elections, says Gary Fan Kwok-wai, a founding member. Fan said his group might even run a better campaign than the big parties because most of its candidates are incumbent district councillors.
Last year, Fan left the Democratic Party in protest after the party supported the government's 2012 political reform agenda. The NeoDemocrats are fielding 10 candidates for next month's polls, of whom seven are already councillors. In Sai Kung constituencies, where the young party has fielded five candidates, three are councillors running for re-election.
'Even though we have far fewer resources than big parties like the Democratic Party and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong [DAB], I am confident that the quality of our electioneering is comparable to theirs,' said Fan, who is running in Wan Hang against DAB candidate Hau Lai-ying.
'It's true that election campaigns involve lots of logistics work and paperwork, to do with the complicated electoral regulations, and big parties' candidates certainly have an advantage because they have more support from the party,' Fan said.
But he said a candidate's network and reputation in the local community was more important than, say, pumping out a lot of campaign literature, because the constituencies are small and the incumbent councillors are well known. 'It's more important to know how to run a campaign with the right strategy rather than having lots of resources,' said Fan, who is seeking a third term as a councillor.
The Democratic Party previously had five district councillors in Sai Kung. Three of them joined the NeoDemocrats, and the other two will run for re-election this year.
The Democratic Party has three candidates running for the first time in Sai Kung. The chairman of the Democratic Party's New Territories East branch, Joseph Chow Kam-siu, acknowledged the party has paid a price for last year's split.
'The [NeoDemocrat] walkout has had a certain impact on us,' Chow said. The party's headquarters is helping new candidates produce campaign literature and deal with the paperwork involved.
But perhaps few candidates face as tough a slog as the independents. Christine Fong Kwok-shan, who left the pro-business Liberal Party last year, said she occasionally found campaigning a bit 'cheerless' because of the pressure to deal personally with every aspect of it.
'For example, it's inevitable that elections involve smear campaigns by opponents. When that happens you need spare time to deal with it,' said Fong, who is running for Sai Kung's Wan Po seat against Liberal Party novice Terry Tsui Yun-yung and the Democratic Party's Cheung Chi-tung. She said that could occupy a third of her time, along with time-consuming paperwork. 'Such things make it more difficult to run as an independent,' she said.
Number of constituencies: 24
Number of candidates: 56
Number of voters: 211,928
Estimated population: 434,881
Democratic Party: 7
Neo Democrats: 5
Civic Force: 5
Liberal Party: 3
Federation of Trade Unions: 3