Polls will affect the balance of power and point the way ahead
The outcome of the by-elections will give an indication of the prevailing political sentiments. This will be of great interest to Beijing and the Hong Kong government
The by-elections triggered by the disqualification of four lawmakers will be held today. Not only are they a barometer of the prevailing political sentiments, the outcome also has far-reaching implications on the balance of power in the legislature as well as the city’s governance. It is important that we seize the opportunity to vote and be counted.
Not all can exercise their right to vote, though. The ballot is only confined to three of the five geographical constituencies and those registered in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, covering some 2.1 million voters, or 55 per cent on the electoral roll. That partly explains why the atmosphere is not as enthusiastic as that of the general Legislative Council polls in 2016. There seems to be a lack of election issues and the coverage in the traditional and social media has been limited. It is even billed as one of the most subdued elections ever. The mood hardly reflects the political turbulence we have experienced in recent years.
It would take more detailed studies to explain the apathy. But it is true that there is a growing sense of political fatigue and helplessness. The removal of the democratically elected lawmakers for failing to take their oaths of office properly may have dampened the incentives of those who believe their votes can make a difference. This is not helped when the performance of individual lawmakers still leaves much to be desired. Many voters have been put off by the endless bickering and inefficient operation of the legislature.
While voter response is lukewarm, the battle is highly politically charged. In what has been touted as a make-or-break battle, the pro-democracy camp is keen to win back the four seats to keep their veto power over certain issues. Whether they can garner enough votes for that remains to be seen. The pro-government camp, having successfully changed the house rules to curb the rivals’ filibustering and other powers, is eager to make further inroads. Both sides will be all out canvassing in an last-ditch effort today.
The scale of today’s ballot is the biggest since the oath-taking saga. How voters respond to the perceived tightening of political freedoms shall be closely watched. The outcome in the four seats will give an indication of the prevailing political sentiments; and perhaps the direction we are heading. This will be of great interest to Beijing and the Hong Kong government.
The new composition of the legislature also has an impact on the balance of power, which in turn affects its operation and relations with the administration. Whether it can cooperate effectively with the government on funding and legislative enactment while playing a meaningful check and balance role depends on your vote and the outcome of the election.