Hong Kong district council elections 2015

Yes, your vote does matter: it's a way to make a difference

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 November, 2015, 12:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 November, 2015, 12:31am

When Hong Kong goes to the polls today, one thing weighs heavily on people's minds. Does my vote matter? With many people still put off by the disputes over the Occupy protests and the ill-fated political reform, the question appears to be more pertinent than ever.

That the campaign atmosphere is not as heated as it used to be is unsurprising. The apathy owes much to the fatigue arising from the drawn-out street blockades and the failure to pass the reform that would have made one person, one vote for the city's leader possible for the first time in 2017.

READ MORE: Elections? In Hong Kong? No, not to elect the Chief Executive but here are four good reasons to care about the polls on Sunday

But there is every reason for voters to turn out. The city's lower-tier election remains the most democratic. For the first time since the handover, the 18 councils will no longer comprise appointed seats. Competition is also the strongest in years. A total of 867 candidates are vying for 363 seats. The number of seats returned without a challenger has fallen from 76 in 2011 to 68 this year.

The role of the district councils is also becoming more significant. Councillors have more influence over the choice of lawmakers and the chief executive under the current electoral system. They also have a bigger say in government policies and in funding for district projects.

WATCH: "Umbrella Soldiers" among candidates in Hong Kong's District Council elections

It is true that a sense of helplessness prevails after the reform package for 2017 was rejected. However, this does not mean people should lose interest in politics. Today's ballot is the first opportunity for voters to make themselves heard since the Occupy protests. A year has passed but the rival camps - the pro-Occupy pan-democrats and the pro-establishment parties - remain as divided. Dozens of activists who have participated in the protests are also trying their luck in the polls. Their performance will be a barometer of the prevailing political sentiment in society.

READ MORE: 'Umbrella soldiers' challenge old guard in Hong Kong's district council elections

Regardless of one's political inclination, the ballot gives the best opportunity for voters to shape a better future. The ability to influence governance through democratic elections has been a core value of Hongkongers. Despite the limited powers vested with the elected institutions, we cherish the opportunity to return people who can best represent our interests. That is why whenever the city goes to the polls, voters flock to the ballot box to make themselves counted. It is the chance for you to come forward and make a difference.