Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Tactical voting convenor Benny Tai says he ‘underestimated’ the situation after misses in LegCo

The convenor of strategic voting plan ThunderGo has admitted to “underestimating the entire situation” on Wednesday after being criticised for causing the pan-democrats to lose the last seats in Sunday’s LegCo election.

The ThunderGo plan was announced in early February by law academic and Occupy co-founder Benny Tai. It originally called for pan-democrats to cooperate to obtain more than half the seats in the Legislative Council elections. Information on strategic voting was released to voters who wanted to participate through a messaging app.

Speaking to the press after appearing on a Commercial Radio programme, he said “we definitely underestimated that the effect of strategic voting would be so strong.”

benny tai

File Photo: Benny Tai Yiu-ting. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

According to an infographic created by commenters on an online forum, seats were won by the pro-establishment camp’s Paul Tse Wai-chun in Kowloon East and Junius Ho Kwan-yiu in New Territories West. However, behind Tse and Ho in votes were the opposition camp’s Wong Yeung-tat of Civic Passion and People Power’s Tam Tak Chi in Kowloon East, as well as the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan and the League of Social Democrats’ Raphael Wong Ho-ming in New Territories West.

Tam and Wong, who the ThunderGo plan supported, performed worse than the other candidates Wong and Lee, who ThunderGo had advised voters to drop. Commenters said that the plan had “screwed people over” with its missteps. Had it advised voters to support Wong and Lee, the opposition would have won the final seats, said critics.

infographic thundergo

Infographic on the results of the ThunderGo plan. Photo: HKGolden.com

However, when asked whether ThunderGo led to veteran lawmakers losing their seats, Tai said he did not believe that ThunderGo was responsible for strategic voting. “I believe that Hong Kong voters did engage in strategic voting, but it was not ThunderGo – rather it was what the voter believed they needed to do under such circumstances.”

“And the other problem is… the fragmenting of the opposition camp, leading to many candidate lists. In this election, even though there is a high turnout, we can see that there has not been great change in the proportion of votes between the pro-establishment and opposition,” he said, “but there are new forces coming up in the opposition. And I think this is the root of the matter… ”

lee cheuk-yan june 4 vigil tiananmen 2016

The Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan, who did not win a seat in the elections. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Because the system was attacked, he said, information on strategic voting was delayed, and some strategic voters may have followed earlier advice instead. He also said that he could do a study to see if people participated in strategic voting and whether they participated in ThunderGo.

See also: Final Hong Kong election results in – Opposition parties gain 3 more seats in legislature

He told RTHK radio on the same day that he realised Hong Kong voters tend to participate late into social movements. “They may not participate in a social movement in the very early stages, [and] strategic voting is a type of social movement, a political movement. But the interesting thing is that in the very last stages, their reactions will be far more than you expect,” Tai said, “so this definitely poses great difficulties for organisers of movements, which is how to achieve resonance [with the people]. This is something that the ThunderGo plan must reflect on.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly cited an infographic which said that the last seat of the Kowloon East constituency was won by Paul Tse Wai-chun. In fact, it was won by the Democratic Party’s Jeremy Tam Man-ho. Tse won the third seat of the constituency.

Tactical voting convenor Benny Tai says he 'underestimated' the situation after misses in LegCo