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Legislative Council by-election 2018

Pan-democrats face much soul-searching in wake of Hong Kong poll results

Although they fended off rivals in two geographical constituencies, their by-election campaign was a bitter failure following the new approach Beijing has taken on city affairs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 7:24am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 7:42am

There was always a chance the pan-democrats would not win back all four Legislative Council seats lost in the disqualification saga. But the real surprise is perhaps how much ground they have lost since Beijing toughened its approach to Hong Kong.

The outcome of Sunday’s by-election speaks volumes about the changing public sentiment and political landscape. 

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

Although the pan-democrats fended off inroads into New Territories East and Hong Kong Island, their campaign was indeed a bitter failure. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong defeated Edward Yiu Chung-yim, one of the disqualified lawmakers, in Kowloon West. 

Their weaker-than-expected performance in geographical polls has prompted a lot of soul-searching. From the choice of candidates to canvassing tactics; from ideological positioning to relations with Beijing, a total rethink is called for.

The poor show was partly attributed to voter turnout, which barely exceeded 40 per cent. While the figure was significantly lower than that for the usual Legco polls, it was not bad for a by-election. A deeper question to ponder is why voters stayed away? Are they tired of filibustering by pro-democracy lawmakers? Or are they resigned to Beijing’s approach?

Will city’s pan-dems learn from shocking by-election setback?

Unless the pan-democrats win back another two disqualified seats in the next by-election, the pro-Beijing camp will continue to control both divisional votes in Legco.

It remains unclear whether the latter will take advantage of the situation to further tighten rules for filibustering. But the pan-democrats’ loss of veto power does not necessarily mean smoother Legco operations and more effective governance for the administration.

The outcome is also of interest to Beijing and the Hong Kong government. The central government is understood to be closely assessing public sentiment in the wake of its new approach to city affairs. If the election results are any reference, it seems that it has not suffered any serious backlash. Whether the changing political landscape will lead to further adjustments will be closely watched.