My Take

Pan-dems have the votes, but will they use them wisely?

In Hong Kong’s leadership race, pan-dems must make a choice: field their own candidate who is most unlikely to win, or back a candidate they can work with

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 1:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 2:55am

Will there be a pan-democratic candidate in the chief executive race? The opposition seems to be changing their tune lately.

Originally, it was a definite no. Now, it sounds like a maybe. There have been talks of getting maverick lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung on the ticket. But “Long Hair” is considered too extreme by many. I look forward to it, though, for the sheer entertainment value. Democratic icons Martin Lee Chu-ming and Audrey Eu Yuet-mee as well as Democrat James To Kun-sun have all reportedly declined to run when approached informally by political allies.

Gloves are off in Hong Kong’s chief executive election, and no one’s pretending it will be a fair and open contest

If Leung does run, though, he automatically opens himself up to charges of hypocrisy. He had rounded on not one but two pan-democrats for running in previous chief executive elections: Alan Leong Kah-kit of the Civic Party in 2007 and Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan in 2012. His argument was that their participation lent support to an illegitimate “small-circle” election.

The latest buzz is that famed broadcaster Albert Cheng King-hon would consider running, if he could be guaranteed the minimum 150 votes from the Election Committee to get on the ticket. With the pan-democratic camp controlling more than 330 votes, there shouldn’t be a problem. It would be a mistake, though, for the pan-dems.



Cheng didn’t exactly have a stellar track record when he was an elected lawmaker. He is also known as “the Bowtie needle”, for his close association with former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who is now on trial for corruption and misconduct in public office.

Pan-democrats rally to nominate like-minded and popular candidate for upcoming Hong Kong chief executive election

More importantly, unlike previous chief executive elections, pan-democrats actually control more than a quarter of the total votes, enough to change the election outcome. They could waste their votes on a candidate of their own, or on retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, the darkest horse in the race. That would only increase the winning chances of Beijing’s favourite Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has already been called “the female CY” after the unpopular outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Realistically, the pan-dems on the committee could play kingmaker and make John Tsang chun-wah work hard to woo their votes. The former finance secretary would always be beholden to the central government. But, by establishing a good rapport and some mutual back-scratching, the pan-democrats as an opposition and Tsang as the chief executive could work together on many social and economic problems.