Legco election offers lessons to both political camps

The Legislative Council has undergone major power shifts as a result of Sunday's ballot, which ended with a few surprises. The pan-democrats lost key directly elected seats because of infighting, but regained lost ground in functional constituencies. The pro-government camp reinforced its dominance with an impressive show. Overall, the new Legco is expected to be more diverse and dynamic. But it is also going to be more fragmented and unpredictable - a potential obstacle to effective governance for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The pan-democrats certainly have a lot of soul searching to do in the wake of their worst showing in geographical constituencies. The high voter turnout of 53 per cent did not help them win more seats. Despite having grabbed more votes, they secured fewer seats in three of the five constituencies. Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, Tanya Chan and Lee Wing-tat were ousted, with some attributing their defeat to wrong electoral strategies and internal rifts. The camp still managed to keep the veto power over democratic reforms with 27 of the 70 votes in Legco - the so-called one-third critical threshold under the Basic Law. That said, the performance has disappointed many supporters. They could have won more seats had they better coordinated. Unity is needed if they want to win and wield more influence.

The pro-government camp also suffered a few setbacks, with the defeat of DAB heavyweight Lau Kong-wah in the "super seats" race. Liberal chief Miriam Lau Kin-yee also lost in her bid for a directly elected seat. But the camp did impressively, with the DAB winning all but one of the seats it contested - an outcome widely attributed to its livelihood-oriented party line and formidable canvassing machinery.

The dominance of government allies suggests no easy road for Leung. The wider political spectrum in a larger Legco means more uncertainties and the need for harder lobbying. There will be more political stunts and resistance from rebel lawmakers. The rising support for radical pro-democracy groups and the general anti-communist sentiments, as reflected in the ballot, are worrying signs of growing discontent with the government and Beijing - a problem that should not be ignored.

The message from 1.83 million voters - a record high since the handover - is loud and clear. They voted for a better Hong Kong by returning the lawmakers they support. It is to be hoped that the new Legco will not let them down.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Election tells of shifting power