Pro-Beijing Parties Won 41 Percent of the Vote in Hong Kong
It's not unanimous support, but a first-past-the-post electoral system which brought anti-Beijing parties a sweeping victory with 55 percent of the vote
Hong Kong’s pan-democrats won big in Sunday’s historic district council elections and while they can claim great satisfaction, beware the middle-of-the-road swing voters, analysts and insiders warned on Monday as the camp basked in the afterglow of their landslide victory.
Poll watchers pointed out that while the pro-democracy bloc won 86 per cent of the 452 seats up for grabs across the city, their share of the votes was not as stunningly huge as the proportion of seats they swept suggested. The bloc garnered a total of 1.6 million votes, or 55 per cent of the valid votes cast; while the pro-establishment camp got 1.2 million votes, or 41 per cent. The remaining 4 per cent went to the non-affiliated independents.
In the 2015 district council polls, the average share of votes garnered by pan-democrats in the constituencies they contested was 47 per cent. They won 116 seats, compared with 292 grabbed by the pro-establishment camp that year. Thus, on Sunday, the pan-democrats gained from an 8 percentage point swing in their favour, as more moderate voters or fence-sitters who sometimes could be classified as mildly blue, the colour assigned to the pro-establishment camp, or mildly yellow, the pro-democracy bloc, batted for them.
But under the first-past-the-post voting system adopted for district council elections, the bigger vote share translated into the disproportionately high number of seats bagged by the bloc that contributed to the immediate sense of accomplishment.
Former transport and housing minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung noted the magnifying effect of the first-past-the-post system.
“Public sentiment is actually not that one-sided as the election results indicated. From Beijing’s perspective, it need not spell the end of the world although there is cause for concern,” said Cheung, who is also a political scientist.
Over the years, in deeply divided Hong Kong, the pan-democrats used to get roughly 55 to 60 per cent of the total vote share.
In the 2016 Legislative Council election, the pan-democratic camp and localist groups garnered 54.8 per cent of about 2.2 million valid votes cast in the five geographical constituencies.
The 54.8 per cent figure is marginally smaller than the 55 per cent vote share the bloc obtained in Sunday’s polls, suggesting the camp solidified its gains of 2016.
Even if swing voters were responsible for tipping the scales for the pro-democracy bloc on Sunday and could one day be enticed away from them, there is no denying the huge number of seats the bloc now controls gives the camp enormous advantages.
With new resources at its disposal, the pro-democracy bloc can grow its base in the 17 out of 18 district councils it controls by crafting programmes on the ground to win over more supporters.
The challenge is not to squander the gains, like the camp did in 2003 when it did not perform on the ground, analysts said.