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HK pro-democracy parties retain veto power but moderates lose ground

Publication Date : 11-09-2012


Five years before Hong Kong is due to elect its leader directly, the city's pro-democracy parties retained their critical veto power over any constitutional change, winning 27 of the 70 seats in Sunday's legislative polls.

The road ahead, however, would be bumpy for the fractured camp. Moderate democrats lost favour with voters, who chose those who prefer more aggressive tactics such as filibustering and protests.

What this means is that the city may find it more difficult than ever to reach consensus on key policies - including the shape of the important universal suffrage process for Hong Kongers to elect their chief executive by 2017. Bad news, in short, for Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, just two months in office.

Bernard Chan, one of Leung's advisers and an executive councillor, told The Straits Times: "This is quite alarming. I fear we are not going to see much done."

In an apparent rejection of the middle-of-the-road approach, the city's 3.8 million voters gave the largest pro-democracy party - the mainstream Democratic Party (DP) - only six seats in the expanded Legislative Council (LegCo).

The DP had eight in the previous 60-seat chamber. In contrast, the more radical groups won five seats, up from three, and also increased their share of the popular vote from 10 per cent to 16 per cent.

DP chairman Albert Ho resigned.

"For the serious failure in this election, I have to accept full political responsibility," he said in an emotional apology to the party faithful.

The DP had been criticised for selling out when it agreed to a compromise with Beijing on a raft of electoral reforms in 2010.

It supported a package that retained the 30 functional constituency seats in the LegCo which are voted in by special interest groups, often with mainland ties - in exchange for the creation of five "super-seats" that are directly elected by the people.

Ho and two other pan-Democrats took three super-seats, with the remaining two going to pro-establishment candidates.

Yesterday, Ho said he still believes that the 2010 reforms served the interests of Hong Kong and have the public's support. But many people have become "increasingly impatient" with the pro-Beijing government and the local electoral system, he added.

Questions remain over how moderate and radical democrats will work together.

Emily Lau, who takes over from Ho as acting chairman, is sanguine that on "big issues" such as universal suffrage, the two sides would be able to come to an agreement on the use of their veto power.

The loss of the middle ground is thrown into further relief by the better organised pro-establishment camp's success in holding its own. It won 40 per cent of the vote, the same as in the 2008 election.


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