Dear Subscribers and Friends

 

Now that all the election results are out and there has been a chance for reflection, the District Council Election 2003 provided the following insights:

 

A. Summary of results

 

You have been hearing about the results from the news so the basics won't be repeated here except the following basic information:

 

1. Turnout: 1,065,363 voters voted

2. Turnout rate: 44.06%

3. Total number of seats: 400

4. Uncontested seats: 74

5. Main party split: Democratic Party won 95 seats (up from 86) and DAB won 62 seats (down from 83). The DP fielded 120 candidates while the DAB fielded 204 candidates. Apart from the two big parties, there were many successes from first-timers in the 'democratic camp'.

6. Appointed seats: 100 - Chief Executive CH Tung (CE) is expected to announce appointees very soon.

7. Evidence of protest votes: Long Hair vs. DAB

 

B. Analysis of results

 

1. Useless groan: During the campaign, the "pro-government" forces rallying cry was that they had served residents in the districts and should therefore not be abandoned. Hong Kong's voters' message was clear – they had a "no confidence" signal for the CH Tung Administration. No doubt the "pro-government" forces did everything they could to pull out votes but it was useless against a tidal wave of public discontent. Hence, the new groan - "we lost because of our connection to the government".

 

2. Unkept promises: Immediately after 1 July when over 500,000 people protested peacefully, the CE said he was stunned and that he would be more open and flexible in the way he governed and would consult more. Voters feel they have not seen much difference.

 

3. Economic tap irrelevant: Even though Beijing has turned on the economic tap for Hong Kong (e.g. CEPA, allowing more Mainland tourists to visit Hong Kong etc), Hong Kong people de-link governance issues from Beijing's economic helping hand.

 

4. "Helping hand" ineffective for DAB: Despite Beijing giving the DAB a clear helping hand to show voters that the party has clout, voters were unpersuaded (e.g. visit to Guangdong, meeting high officials, special meeting with China's Astronaut). Rightly, Tsang Yok-sing, DAB's chair, resigned his post. His party is now pondering what to do.

 

5. "We want to protest": The race between Long Hair (Hong Kong's colourful anytime-anywhere protestor) and the DAB's Choy So Yuk showed the degree of discontent with the authorities. Long Hair lost to Choy by a mere 284 votes in a hotly contested race in the Kam Ping district on HK Island. A third candidate took 636 votes. The DAB lost many important seats occupied by legislators, such as vice-chair Ip Kwok-him and Lau Kong-wah.

 

6. "Smears": During the final days of the campaign, "smears" were directed at Cyd Ho, who ran against Ip Kwok-him. Ho was accused of firing an employee without compensation. In one paper with strong connection to Beijing, a long article was published on election day about the firing but at the end of the story, there was a sentence saying that Ho and the ex-employee issued a joint statement refuting the claim! The poorly constructed "smears" were signs of desperation and more for show to Beijing that the "pro-government" forces were doing everything they could.

 

7. More candidates needed: Had the 'democratic camp' fielded candidates in the uncontested areas, it could have taken more seats. A lot of change was left on the table. The message is clear for political aspirants - run and you can win. Now for the next DC Election in 2007!

 

8. Pressure on appointments: Pressure is mounting on the CE to not make the appointments so as not to thwart the will of the electorate by putting 'pro-government' people back on the DCs. The 'pro-democracy' forces are arguing that even if appointments are made, the appointees should have no voting power. So, watch this space to see what the CE does.

 

9. Road to 2004 begins: The LegCo Election in September 2004 will begin to build. Giving a further 'helping hand' to the DAB may be counter-productive now, thus requiring Beijing to response in a manner that shows in understands how Hong Kong feels.

 

CHRISTINE LOH

Civic Exchange - HK's Independent think tank

www.civic-exchange.org

To subscribe - email cloh@civic-exchange.org