Legislative Council elections 2016

‘Strategic’ voting scheme has Hong Kong’s pan-democrats on the brink

Benny Tai’s controversial plan, which listed recommended candidates based on pre-polling, blamed for putting several veterans at risk

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 September, 2016, 11:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2016, 3:42am

Several veteran pan-democrats last night appeared to be on the brink of defeat – an outcome which could lead to one-man bands for their grassroots parties, or their parties not even having a presence in the legislature.

These candidates blamed a controversial strategic voting scheme that presented a different picture of their standing from other polls and which did not recommend them to voters.

One of them, Labour Party’s Cyd Ho Sau-lan, called an emergency press conference yesterday announcing the “dangerous” situation that she faces in her Hong Kong Island constituency.

She said the strategic voting initiative, devised by Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting, was “unreasonable” after it released on Saturday night a list of recommended pan-democratic candidates, based on pre-polling. She was excluded from the list.

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“ThunderGo is damaging,” Ho said, referring to Tai’s scheme. “People should not vote based on results of an inaccurate poll. We believe that the poll was dominated by radicals.”

Ho said another poll, done by the Hong Kong Research Association, showed she had been ranking above Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung, whom ThunderGo recommended instead.

When announcing the details of his scheme on Friday, Tai expected 25,000 voters would participate. They would indicate their preferences on an interactive poll via Telegram and would be informed of the popularity of candidates the day before the official vote, and then 21/ 2 hours before it closed. Such “smart voters” would withhold their votes until 8pm and then vote for those whose numbers are weaker.

Ho’s colleague Lee Cheuk-yan was also excluded from the Saturday recommendations but he was on the to-vote-for list last night.

Lee had not done well either in another poll, conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme. He ranked 10th in New Territories West, which had nine seats up for grabs. “This campaign has been the toughest in my career,” the unionist veteran admitted. “There have never been so many non-establishment squads in the battlefield.”

Ma Ngok, a political scientist at the Chinese University, said Lee’s party might become a one-man band if he and Ho lost, with their colleague Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung having a good chance of winning as he had done well in the polls.

Also facing difficulties in New Territories West was Frederick Fung Kin-kee, who was the lone lawmaker of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood. Fung doubted the accuracy of Tai’s plan, saying his supporters, mostly in the grassroots, were less likely to respond to the electronic poll.

There would be a change in Legco’s outlook if Ho, Lee and Fung – and super-seat candidate Leung Yiu-chung – all lost.

“After all, these veterans come from parties that focus the most on district work and grassroots interests,” Ma said. He also noted that ThunderGo was “making many candidates nervous – even the potential winners”.

Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who had topped other opinion polls previously, ended up issuing an emergency appeal last night.

The Civic Party candidate in Kowloon East said about one-third of supporters he approached yesterday had chosen someone else at the polls because they thought he had “enough” votes already. People’s misunderstanding of the voting tactic could result in his defeat, he said.

In the other camp, not all pro-Beijing candidates were feeling confident of their campaign. The Federation of Trade Unions’ (FTU) Tang Ka-piu also issued an “emergency call on all fronts”. Tang, running in New Territories East, had faced strong competition from New People’s Party newbie Eunice Yung Hoi-yan as some of the pro-Beijing camp’s troops had been mobilised to back the latter.

Tang’s colleague Kwok Wai-Keung, running in Hong Kong Island, also complained his votes were “being taken away” by others. In Chai Wan, FTU honorary president Cheng Yiu-tong said its candidates faced a similar issue.

“There are lots of rumours about us having enough votes already, but they are not true ... I hope voters can see that our opponents are independence advocates, while we are truly the voice of employees,” he said.