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Hong Kong Elections

Hong Kong Elections

11 September 2012

The results of the legislative elections in Hong Kong last week revealed the poisoned chalice of the British colonial inheritance. Making money was always more important than cementing democracy in the tiny island. But the democratic will of the people was plain to see in the elections. Voter turn-out among the 3.5m electorate was over 50%, higher than the previous legislative poll in 2008.

For the first time, 40 of the 70 seats on Hong Kong's governing legislative council were directly elected. Under the current laws, the rest were chosen by small groups of electors selected along economic and professional lines, a system typical of British ‘democracy’ in the 19th century.

In winning almost 60% of the votes the democratic camp was able to maintain its ability to block legislation. But winning 60% of the votes did not translate into 60% of the seats. Due to the blatantly unfair electoral system, the democratic camp won only 27 seats, while the ‘business camp’ won 43 seats.

Despite the good performance of the democratic grouping some expected an even better result. As a consequence, Albert Ho resigned as chairman of the Democratic Party, taking responsibility for the party’s ‘serious failure’ in the election.

The higher than expected turnout followed weeks of protests about plans by the executive to introduce new text books stressing ‘patriotic education’.  A day before the elections, the plans were scrapped by Chief Executive CY Leung.

EU reaction to the elections was muted. A statement by Catherine Ashton’s office simply ‘took note’ of the election results. It added that Hong Kong was ‘an important partner for the EU and shares values of openness, tolerance and respect for fundamental freedoms. The EU attaches great importance to Hong Kong's stability, economic prosperity and democratic development and ... supports the goal of universal suffrage by 2017.’

Following the election there will be pressure on Mr Leung and Beijing to deliver on promises to introduce direct universal elections for the post of chief executive by the next elections in 2017.

The opposition still has its work cut out to produce a coherent alternative programme, as opposed to concentrating their efforts on opposing any measure that could give Beijing more power or influence over Hong Kong. Parties that emphasised issues such as the high cost of housing, rising unemployment and growing corruption did well.