The record Hong Kong voter turnout of 71.2 percent of the 4.1 million registered voters in last Sunday’s 18 District Council elections, in which the pro-democratic candidates crushed their pro-government opponents who had dominated the district council seats, was a stunning victory for democracy. The pan-democrats won 17 of the 18 districts. The plural noun trumps means to defeat, which is what democracy did big-time to the pro-Beijing candidates.
A leaderless movement moving like water out-smarted the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong.
Of the 452 seats up for election, the pro-democracy camp won 392, which included 347 pan-democrats and 45 friendly independents. The pro-government bloc had to settle for a mere 60. The only council seat they retained was the 18 member Islands district where eight seats are handed out automatically to pro-establishment rural chiefs.
Although district councilors are only the equivalent of city councilmen in U.S. cities who deal with municipal details such as pot holes, garbage collection, location of bus stops and other city amenities, the election had taken on a disproportionate importance in a city divided by six months of protests, many of them violent.
The government went ahead with the election believing a “silent majority” would come out in support of the government and voice their opposition to the violent protests that have become Hong Kong’s new normal. Wishful misguided thinking — again!
The Democrats decisive victory vindicates the people’s demands that the five demands of the civil disobedience movement be met.
Analysts agree that the strong showing of the pan-democrats — despite their proclivity towards violence — vindicates their behavior — as there was little desire by Hongkongers to got zek, a Cantonese phrase meaning cutting the mat — or cut ties with the protestors even though the radical core had disrupted the lives of many and caused a dent to the city’s economy and international reputation.
The election was a referendum on the protest movement that has rocked Hong Kong over the past six months.
Many of the winning candidates were active in the anti-government protests.
The vote was also a warning of what will happen in the upcoming Legislative elections in September next year.
Several of the pro-government District Councilors who lost are also Legislators in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council who will be running for re-election in September.
The pro-democracy camp’s war chest is expected to receive HK$1.7 billion from each councilor’s monthly salary of HK$33,950.00 and office expenses of HK$44,816, allowing them to hire protestors who lost their jobs and bring more support to the ongoing protest movement.
Voters clearly rejected Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s pro-Beijing leadership and handling of the crisis she created by her now withdrawn extradition bill.
The most direct impact of the election is on the 117 seats district councilors occupy in the 1,200-member Election Committee that selects the chief executive every five years. In 2016, the pan-democrats, although winning 300 of the professional and political seats on the Election Committee, failed to win any of the 117 district council seats. They will now have a strong-say in the election of the next Chief Executive in 2022.
Time will tell how much of the power that rests with Beijing can be wrestled away. The District Council election hopefully showed the powers-at-be that the battle at the ballot box is better than fighting in the streets — and they start abiding by the Basic Law.