The outcome of the revamped Legislative Council election was bound to be vastly different from what went before, not only because of the new rules of the game, but also the changing political atmosphere and landscape. Even though Sunday’s high-stakes ballot offers few surprises following a largely uneventful process, it opens a new chapter in the city’s development under the so-called principle of patriots administering Hong Kong. From voter turnout and the new political line-up to the implications for governance and democratisation, there is much to reflect on. The electoral process was by and large smooth , probably because the government realised that it could not afford another setback after technical glitches caused a serious counting delay in a smaller-scale vote in September. However, there were still some hiccups during the 14-hour ballot and vote count this time, with some polling stations having online connection problems and long queues forming in delivering ballot boxes for central counting. But, given the limited preparation time and sweeping changes in voting arrangements, the situation could have been worse. Despite a turnout of more than 98 per cent for seats on the Election Committee, the geographical and trade-based polls only drew 30.2 per cent and 32.2 per cent of voters respectively, the lowest since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor continued to play down the embarrassingly low figures, saying as many as 1.35 million people had still supported an improved electoral system. But millions more shunned the ballot, with social media awash with images of people taking advantage of free rides on public transport rather than voting. Arguably, the different electoral frameworks make direct comparison difficult with the 2016 Legco race and 2019 district council poll, where turnouts hit 58.3 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively. But it is clear the political divide remains strong, if not deeper, and must be further addressed by Beijing and the local government. Beijing’s overhaul ‘not about getting people out to vote’ in Hong Kong poll It is a welcome sign that the promise of universal suffrage under the Basic Law has not been swept aside. Expecting a barrage of criticism over the so-called patriots-only election, the State Council yesterday issued a timely white paper renewing Beijing’s commitment to fulfilling the ultimate goal of returning the chief executive and the legislature via universal suffrage. The 57-page document noted that the new electoral system had contributed to the process, but it also stressed the central authorities had the final say in determining a system of democracy, which is a matter of national sovereignty and security. Concerns over checks and balances Despite Beijing’s repeated assurance that it had no intention to foster “political homogeneity”, the establishment camp swept all but one seat, the social welfare sector, in the 90-strong legislature. All 11 centrist candidates running in the directly elected geographical constituencies lost by wide margins. A considerable number of novices apparently won because of their connections rather than political credentials, including some new faces returned via the Election Committee. They may have worked hard to win the votes in the small-circle race, but they will also have to work harder to prove themselves and win the support and trust of the wider community. Lam said the new legislature would enhance governance and efficiency. But it does not mean the administration can bulldoze through bills and projects with little regard for the views of the public. Indeed, the lack of an opposition bloc has raised valid concerns over the checks and balances expected of Legco. Under the new line-up, filibustering and other political theatrics will be a thing of the past. But there is a difference between patriots and loyalists. The last thing the public wants is an expanded rubber stamp for unfettered powers. Pressure is already growing The challenges ahead are daunting. It would be wrong for the government and its political allies to assume it will be all plain sailing. The shake-up with more non-partisan lawmakers from professional backgrounds means a different approach may be required to build consensus and win support for bills and funding. Members, in particular the new faces, must also be prepared for their roles as part of the governance structure. As it happened: ‘No one size fits all’ democracy for Hong Kong, Lam says Only time will tell whether the new Legco is one that will be keen to flex its muscles or be open to government manipulation. Pressure is already growing for the executive and the legislative branches to have a healthy working relationship once the new four-year term begins in January. It may be true that more people will be uninterested or feel despair following the election, but the repeated emphasis on restored political order and improved governance has inevitably raised expectations of the city changing for the better. This includes tackling a wide range of deep-seated conflicts and problems that have for too long been blamed for holding back solutions and development. Now that the legislature has been purged of perceived obstacles and been given a clean sweep that is expected to put wider public interests above all, the community rightly expects better results in tackling challenges ahead.