COVID-19 resurgence puts pan-democratic primaries at risk

The pan-democratic primaries set to take place this weekend showcase the first time pan-democrats have used this method to select their official candidates for September’s LegCo Election.

Photo courtesy of Don North.


The pan-democratic primaries take place this weekend to decide the official candidates from the pan-democratic side for the 2020 LegCo Election that takes place in September.

The idea of a primary election was put forth by Mr Benny Tai, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong. He was involved in several elections in Hong Kong, having introduced ‘Operation ThunderGo’ for the 2016 LegCo Election and ‘Project Storm’ for the 2019 District Council Election, both of which aim at winning a majority of seats for the pan-democratic side.

251 voting stations across five voting districts will be set up this weekend to accommodate voters. Many of them are set up in offices of district councillors. However, Mr Tai noted that the primaries will use an electronic voting system, in which voters will vote using a pre-downloaded app in the voting station. Extra mobile phones and tablets will also be provided in the station to improve the voting process.

Since the exact amount of voters is unknown, no specific standards of winning have been set for the primaries apart from the New Territories West, where candidates will qualify for the LegCo Election if they receive 48,000 or more votes. Mr Tai noted that the number is a reference to the number of voters in the 2019 District Council Election, where pan-democrats received around 480,000 votes in total.

“We take 10 percent of the total votes in the 2019 election as a reference to the qualifying standard. This number could also be a reference for other districts in the primaries. If the number of voters does not reach 10 percent of that in the 2019 election then candidates will have to discuss how to handle the situation,” Mr Tai says.

Benny Tai, photo courtesy of Iris Tong / Public domain.

Playing to win means playing nice

Mr Tai also adds that the primaries allow pan-democrats to coordinate before the LegCo Election, something that they were not able to do before. Candidates have agreed to drop out of the election if they do not receive enough votes from voters.

“In the past candidates were not able to coordinate for the election as each party and candidate set up their own election campaigns. But this time the candidates have promised to coordinate and follow the result of the primaries. I believe that this will lead to a smaller number of pan-democratic candidates for the LegCo Election as compared to before,” he says.

Mr Sunny Cheung, a first-time candidate for the LegCo Election in the Kowloon West District, says that the primaries allow the public to know more about the ideas and policies of each candidate.

“The primaries give candidates a good opportunity to debate and promote their political beliefs. It provides a platform for candidates to introduce and explain their roadmap and agenda for their campaigns,” he states.

COVID Cautious

The number of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong has been increasing again over the last few days. Mr Tai posits that the government might announce new public health policies such as the social gathering limits, which might in turn affect the primaries this weekend.

“If stations cannot operate properly because of these public health measures then obviously the primaries cannot be carried out. Regardless, we have to improve our health precautions to ensure the functioning of the primaries. But the situation of COVID-19 might also affect the will of people coming out to vote and that might affect the voting numbers for the primaries,” he says.

The result of the primaries will be posted as soon as possible on 13 July. Pan-democrats will follow this result to finalise their election teams and crafted voting strategies for the  September election.

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the author

Thomas is a student at the University of Southern California studying Communication. His interests range from local politics, international relations and macroeconomic policies.