Poll leaves Hong Kong opposition in a right quandary

By-election may appear a tie but the results were hardly a ringing endorsement of the pan-democrats and the question is where do they go from here?   

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 6:43am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 6:52am

The by-election may look like a tie between the two rival camps, but it’s really a lost battle for the opposition. In the weeks leading up to the Sunday polls, it was seen as a “referendum” on the opposition, and a repudiation of the government’s efforts at disqualifying six localist lawmakers.

As it was, the poll results were hardly an endorsement of the opposition by the general public.

Hong Kong’s pan-democrats apologise after by-election defeat

Initially, many had thought the pan-dems had the three geographical seats in the bag, and that their comrade Paul Zimmerman had a shot at the functional seat for the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sectors. Both sympathy and protest votes were considered enough to tie their candidates over to victory.

But the DAB’s Vincent Cheng Wing-shun scored a surprise upset by beating Edward Yiu Chung-yim, one of the disqualified lawmakers who was hoping to return to the legislature.

There were not enough sympathy votes for Yiu to help him win while the DAB’s high-risk gamble at fielding a single candidate to fight Yiu paid off handsomely.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman became a lost cause long before Sunday, thanks largely to his trouble with illegal structures found at his home in Sai Kung.

His pan-dem supporters were seen as hypocrites for backing him while demanding the resignation of Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, the secretary for justice, who has had her own scandal over unauthorised structures at two luxury homes.

The opposition has failed to restore the majority it had before the disqualifications within the geographical bloc of seats in the legislature. What to do?

Five takeaways from disappointing by-election for Hong Kong pan-democrats

The likely option is to keep fingers crossed as Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai, the other two disqualified lawmakers, pursue their appeal against their disqualification and fight another by-election should both lose in court. 

Alternatively, pressure Leung and Lau to give up their appeal to bring forward the by-election. But in light of the latest polls, the opposition should hardly have the confidence to win back those two geographical seats.