Voters veto the Legco hopes of opposition

  • Overwhelming victory by pro-establishment Chan Hoi-yan at Kowloon West spells disaster for the pan-democrats and thwarts plan to regain power over legislation
PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 9:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 11:20pm

Sunday’s was just one electoral race for the legislature, but it spelt disaster for the entire opposition.

Political greenhorn Chan Hoi-yan won the Kowloon West seat by handily defeating long-time pan-democrat steward Lee Cheuk-yan with 106,457 votes, 13,410 more than her closest rival.

Supposedly a quiet by-election due to voters’ fatigue, the turnout was slightly higher than that in March, which was then billed by the opposition as a showdown with the government.

Why did Hong Kong voters reject pro-democracy candidate?

The four races in March and the one on Sunday were necessitated by the disqualification of six localist lawmakers over their refusal to take the oath properly for legislative duties. An ongoing court case launched by former legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung contesting his disqualification means there is no date fixed for a by-election for the last empty seat.

Chan was ostensibly an independent, but those who helped her canvas voters at the last minute included current and former chairmen of the powerful Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, as well as her former boss, Dr Ko Wing-man.

As secretary for food and health, Ko was consistently the most popular minister in opinion polls under the administration of former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

The political establishment tried but failed to convince Ko to enter the race. Chan, his former political assistant, was “Plan B”, just as Lee was to ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai after she was barred from running in the by-election.

Sunday also marked a sad ending to the long political careers of Lee and former comrade Frederick Fung Kin-kee, who angered the opposition by insisting on entering the race. The fear was that Fung, with strong grass-roots support from his Kowloon West home base, would steal votes from Lee. In the end, it didn’t matter. Fung secured 12,509 votes. Chan would still have won had all those votes gone to Lee.

Lee has said he will not run in the 2020 Legislative Council election, while Fung has burned all bridges with the opposition and no longer has propaganda value for the government even if he did jump ship.

The opposition has so far managed to win back only two out of five seats. Whether voters supported the disqualifications, two rounds of by-elections show they could live with them. Any sympathy they might have did not translate into sufficient votes for the opposition, thereby ending its hope to regain veto powers in Legco.