Forget filibustering, it will be guerilla warfare in the new Legco

Localists and pan-democrats, excluded from the formal levers of control, are likely to resort to ever more disruptive tactics

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 2:45am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 2:45am

The job of the president of the Legislative Council is to prioritise legislative agendas, monitor and rule on debates over bills, and approve motions tabled by fellow legislators. He or she is supposed to ensure the smooth workings of the chamber and play the role of an impartial adjudicator.

Well, that’s the official job description. In reality, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, is put in the hot seat because he is expected to be the henchman for the government and the pro-establishment camp.

As it happened: Andrew Leung elected Legco president 38-0 over pan-dems’ objections in dramatic ending to raucous day

With six localists and any number of radical pan-democrats in the new Legislative Council, every trick in the book will be used to thwart the government’s agenda. So you need a hardline president to put the lid on in case things get out of hand. That’s the official thinking. More likely, though, both sides will just escalate their fights, possibly until they spiral out of control. Unable to stop Leung from being elected, the opposition camp is now trying to discredit or at least delegitimise him. After the chief executive, Andrew Leung will have the most contentious job in government. The lateness with which he applied to renounce his British nationality and the failure of the Legco secretariat to check his status does raise questions about whether special allowance was made to enable him to qualify for Legco’s top post. The Legco president is not allowed to hold citizenship and right of abode in another country. But the opposition has already lost the battle over Leung. The new fight is over the leadership of the various committees, subcommittees and panels. Traditionally, both sides used to share the key chairmanships and vice-chairmanships of committees like house and finance.

In the last legislature, the pro-establishment side gave up this gentlemanly arrangement and took up all four posts. It will attempt to do the same again this time while also trying to dominate other key posts such as those for the constitutional, security, home affairs and development panels. An attempt to parcel out the posts by consensus lasted exactly five minutes.

With most of the formal levers of control in Legco out of their reach, localist and pan-democratic lawmakers will resort even more to disruptive tactics.

You think the last Legco was bad. Filibustering? Think guerilla warfare.