The pro-democracy camp will have to play the best cards they’ve got in the upcoming by-elections or risks having the pro-establishment camp have their untrammelled way in the next four years.
The pro-democracy camp will have to play the best they’ve got in the upcoming by-elections or risks having the pro-establishment camp go their way in the next four years.
The court of appeal has ruled on Wednesday that the decision by the Court of First Instance to disqualify Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang (梁頌恆) and Yau Wai-ching (游蕙禎) shall stand. In light of the development, LegCo president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen (梁君彥) has noted that the LegCo secretariat will make an official announcement on the vacated seats, hence triggering by-elections in the New Territories East and Kowloon West geographical constituencies.
The pro-democracy camp initially held 19 out of 35 seats in the geographical constituencies, securing them a veto power to block any new government bill under the split voting system of LegCo. Now with the disqualification of Leung and Yau, the pro-democracy camp is barely retaining that advantage by a one-seat margin. If the pro-establishment camp manages to win the by-elections, the government is expected to push forward bills with relative ease for the next four years. However, frustrated by the government’s move to drive them out of the LegCo, the pro-democracy camp could potentially become more radical in its approach to filibuster every single ‘controversial’ bill the government proposes.
That scenario however is unlikely to happen. Drawing from the recent LegCo elections and from the New Territories East by-election in February, it is highly possible that a pan-democrat candidate will retain the seat in New Territories East. During February’s by-election, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu (楊岳橋) of Civic Party managed to win 160,880 votes and beat DAB’s Holden Chow Ho-ding (周浩鼎) by 10,551 votes while 66,524 people voted for localist Edward Leung Tin-kei (梁天琦). The case applies three months ago when pan-democrats, excluding the localists and self-determination faction, still won a combined 272,618 votes compared with 200,834 for the pro-establishment camp.
It is a bit tricky in the case of Kowloon West though. The votes between the pan-democrats and the localist-self-determination faction were evenly distributed, and combined they accounted for 57.6% of the total votes in the constituency. If divided, however, both camps were about 20,000 votes each short of the pro-establishment camp. Whether there will be localists running in the Kowloon West by-election, and, if so, how the vote distribution will change after the oath-gate saga will therefore become crucial factors. The situation can be even trickier if the government wins its legal challenge against Lau Siu-lai (劉小麗) and vacates her seat, in which case the pro-establishment camp will almost certainly win a seat out of two in the Kowloon West by-election.
Other lawmakers also facing a judicial review over their oaths include Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape lawmaker Edward Yiu Chun-yim (姚松炎), Nathan Law Kwun-chung (羅冠聰) in Hong Kong Island and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄) in New Territories East.
Speculations on who will join the races are already flying all over the place. There seems to be a general consensus both among the pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camp to avoid internal vote-splitting, with the exception of the Liberal Party. It is planning to go ahead with Dominic Lee Tsz-king (李梓敬) in Kowloon West without coordinating with the pro-establishment camp. All in all, it will likely be a repechage for heavyweights who lost in September’s elections.
Potential veterans include Wong Kwok-hing (王國興) of the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) and DAB’s Chris Ip Ngo-tung (葉傲冬), nephew of Ip Kwok-him (葉國謙) and chairman of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council, Ricky Wong Wai-kay (王維基), Frederick Fung Kin-kee (馮檢基) of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, and Avery Ng Man-yuen (吳文遠) of League of Social Democrats in Kowloon West; and FTU’s Tang Ka-piu (鄧家彪), Liberal Party’s James Tien Pei-chun (田北俊), independent Christine Fong Kwok-shan (方國珊), Gary Fan Kwok-wai (范國威) of New Democrats, and former Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo (鄭家富).
So far there is no localist expressing interest to run, and the likelihood of them being allowed to run is low anyway in light of Beijing’s outspoken desire to keep them out of the LegCo.
A lot can happen between now and the by-elections, which will be held likely after the Chief Executive election in March with the election itself being perhaps the most influential factor. It’s still too early to guess where the two seats will go – or three seats or more.