HKFP Reports Hong Kong Politics & Protest

The district election X factor: age, platform, or just a new face?

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Following Sunday’s District Council election, there have been many explanations put forward by candidates, parties and political commentators for the results of the first city-wide poll since last year’s pro-democracy protests.

Clarisse Yeung Suet-yin

Clarisse Yeung Suet-yin. Photo: Facebook/Clarisse Yeung

Factor 1: Did candidates win because of the protests?

Partly. Up to nine of the so-called “umbrella soldiers” won seats in the election, but their victories may not be directly related to their participation in, or support for, the protest movement.

The protests were only the first steps towards their participation in the election, which led them to feel a need to influence local politics.

Most of the “umbrella soldiers” did not even put yellow umbrella symbols or yellow ribbons on their platforms – and sometimes, if they did, they were accused of being “fake umbrella soldiers.” Baggio Leung of Youngspiration, said at a press conference after the election that they never wanted to be called “umbrella soldiers” because they cannot represent everyone who participated.

Clarisse Yeung Suet-yin, one of the “umbrella soldiers” who won a seat, told Apple Daily that her campaign focused on local district issues rather than discussing her participation in the protests.

However, Ma Ngok, a political scientist, told the newspaper that the movement has prompted more people to come out to vote for the first time.

Yau Wai-ching

Yau Wai-ching (left), a young candidate who failed to win. Photo: Stand News.

Factor 2: Did candidates win because they are young?

The youth of some candidates probably did help a few of them to win, but it was not necessarily a deciding factor. For example, 23 year old Jacky Lai Ming-chak of the Neo Democrats Party has become a district councillor at his first attempt. On the other hand, Yau Wai-ching, the Youngspiration candidate who failed to beat BPA Party lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, is 24 years old. She lost by 304 votes.

It may be a selling point for voters if the candidates are young, but it does not mean they can win simply because of that. Nor are all “umbrella soldiers” young. In a shock win in the Yue Wan constituency in Chai Wan, “umbrella soldier” Chui Chi-kin beat lawmaker Christopher Chung Shu-kun, who has been a district councillor for 24 years. Chui, a new candidate running for the first time, is 48 years old.

The 2007, 2011 and 2015 turnout rates.

The 2007, 2011 and 2015 turnout rates. Photo: Gov HK.

Factor 3: Did candidates win because of the high turnout?

In past elections, a high turnout rate was said to be beneficial to pan-democrat candidates, as their parties were less well-organised and their voters were less likely to vote in District Council elections.

However, in this election, the high turnout may also have benefited the pro-Beijing camp, contrary to the former belief.

In Siu Hong constituency in Tuen Mun, where the turnout was more than 58 percent, DAB Party candidate Mo Shing-fung beat Democratic Party candidate Josephine Chan Shu-ying.

Democratic Party lawmaker Sin Chung-kai said on a Commercial Radio programme on Tuesday that supporters of both the pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps came out to vote, resulting in the high turnout.

Gary Fan Kwok-wai of Neo Democrats.

Gary Fan Kwok-wai of Neo Democrats. File Photo: Apple Daily.

Factor 4: Did candidates win because voters liked their platforms?

Another factor could be a very traditional one, that candidates have simply put forward a good platform that residents have agreed with.

The Neo Democrats Party won 15 out of the 16 seats they contested. Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the party said after the election that the results showed the party maintained a solid foundation through their hard work on the local issues in the constituencies, and that their stance of defending local core values secured their victories.

Yam Kai-bong, the party’s candidate who got the highest number of votes – 4,148 – in the entire election, made high property prices and estate maintenance and repair costs the main points of his platform.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairperson of the pro-Beijing DAB Party, also said at a press conference after the election that voters were still concerned about district livelihood issues.

Chui Chi-kin

Chui Chi-kin. Photo: Stand News/朝雲

Factor 5: Did candidates win because voters want change?

The factors already mentioned have combined to give some candidates a higher chance of winning.

However, one last factor may be the most important one – that some candidates won because their opponents were campaigning badly or lazily, and that residents simply wanted the incumbent district councillor to step down, and be replaced with a new face.

Chui Chi-kin, who beat lawmaker Christopher Chung, said on a Commercial Radio programme on Monday that his victory could be related to his hard work compared to Chung, citing the fact that Chung rarely showed up in the constituency as he was too busy.

“The residents wanted change, and they have had no choice before this, so perhaps they wanted to give a new candidate a chance,” Chui said.

The district election X factor: age, platform, or just a new face?