Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Law professor Benny Tai outlines new tactical voting plan for 2019 District Council elections

Law professor Benny Tai has outlined a new proposal for tactical voting in Hong Kong’s 2019 District Council elections in order to double the number of seats held by opposition candidates.

Writing on Tuesday in Apple Daily, Tai said that it would not be easy for pro-democracy and localist camps to gain over 200 of 431 District Council seats across the city. The councils are traditionally dominated by pro-establishment candidates.

district council elections

2015 District Council elections polling station. Photo: HKFP.

Tai said the ultimate aim of the plan – called “Project Storm” – is to gain a larger proportion of seats in the 1,200-member Election Committee that selects the Chief Executive.

The city’s 431 district councillors have the right to elect a total of 117 members within this committee. All 117 members who voted in last month’s chief executive election – which saw the victory of Carrie Lam – were pro-establishment councillors.

See also: After pro-democracy camp wins, Hong Kong’s gov’t looks to rein in strategic voting

“If the pro-democracy camp can increase its number of Election Committee seats from over 300 to over 500 in 2021, the Chinese Communist Party will find it more difficult to manipulate the 2022 chief executive election,” wrote Tai.

“This may force the Communist Party to reform the current system to achieve genuine universal suffrage.”

Operation ThunderGo

Tai’s attempt at organising tactical voting during last September’s Legislative Council elections – Operation ThunderGo – proved influential but controversial. He gathered the voting preferences of electors using messaging platform Telegram, and offered advice as to which opposition candidates should be “abandoned” or “rescued.”

infographic thundergo

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

Although the opposition camp increased their number of seats in the legislature as a whole, several candidates that Tai advised voters to “abandon” in fact received more votes than those that he advised voters to “rescue.”

Two challenges

On Monday, Tai wrote that there were two challenges that the opposition camp would have to overcome in order to win over 200 seats in the various District Councils. He said that voters tended to place greater emphasis on the experience of candidates in serving local communities rather than their political views.

“As the pro-establishment camp has a lot of resources, the pro-democracy camp cannot compete,” he wrote. “But many voters have now grasped the mentality of tactical voting… they will look at whether their vote can create long-term, holistic political results.”

Tai said that the second challenge was to persuade enough opposition figures to compete for all 431 District Council seats. During the last district elections in 2015, 68 pro-establishment councillors were automatically elected as the sole candidate in their constituencies.

“Even if there is tactical voting, pro-democracy candidates must show voters their willpower and ability to serve the community,” wrote Tai.

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Benny Tai. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP

“If you want to run for the District Council, you need to begin serving the community now, and if you are elected, you must serve the district for at least another four years.”

“This is quite a large life investment. If 300 democracy figures are willing to sacrifice this, they could create a breakthrough in Hong Kong’s democratic development.”

University of Hong Kong professor Tai is currently facing charges of public nuisance for his role during the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests. He was informed of his charges alongside eight other leaders last month.

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Law professor Benny Tai outlines new tactical voting plan for 2019 District Council elections