Editorial : Political issues have failed to galvanise voters

【明報專訊】THE pan-democrats have suffered another setback in the second Legco by-election in Kowloon West. There are two sentiments evident in the election results: the lack of enthusiasm for "old faces", and the apathy towards political topics.

In terms of voter turnout and the performance of the two major camps, this by-election bore a lot of similarity to the one held on 11th March this year, which was won by Vincent Cheng with 107,000 votes. This time around, Rebecca Chan, a "political amateur", has also clinched a victory with 106,000 votes. As for the non-establishment camp, the votes garnered by Lee Cheuk-yan, jointly nominated by the pan-democrats and Frederick Fung, former chairman of the ADPL altogether were also in the neighbourhood of the 105,000 votes cast for Edward Yiu, the democratic candidate, in the previous by-election.

Edward Yiu had made quite a few strategic mistakes in his campaign during the previous election for the Kowloon West seat. This time around, Lee's campaign was in many ways an improvement on Yiu's. Rather than merely try to create momentum on social media, he hit the streets in many districts. He also mounted a wide-ranging effort to canvass for votes — not only were veteran politicians like Martin Lee deployed to drum up support for him, but people like Joshua Wong also crisscrossed the district to mobilise young voters. But all that failed to boost voter turnout. Lee received around 93,000 votes. Some people attribute his defeat to vote-splitting by Frederick Fung. Statistics do show that Fung affected Lee more than he did Chan. However, even if vote-splitting played a role in the election, the votes received by Lee and Fung altogether were fewer than Chan's. That the pan-democrats have suffered two consecutive defeats in by-elections has raised the alarm. The pan-democrats should take stock of what has happened seriously instead of shifting blame onto others.

The election results have accentuated two things: voters are tired of old faces, and they are apathetic about political issues. That voters crave new faces to effect change is a global trend, which explains the high "depreciation rate" of politicians today. In both of the two previous by-elections, both the pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps fielded young faces. The contest between Lee and Chan this time, in contrast, fully exposed the problem of "political depreciation". Supported by the pro-establishment camp, Chan emphasised her image as a political amateur, which helped her widen her appeal and drum up support from moderate voters.

After the by-election, the pro-establishment camp has a majority in both the functional constituencies and the geographical constituencies. If members of the camp act in unison, they will always be able to secure a victory in the split voting system. Theoretically, the hegemony of the pro-establishment camp can reduce the obstacles facing the governance of the SAR government. But both the government and the pro-establishment camp have to bear in mind one thing: that they have enough votes in Legco does not mean that they can do whatever they want. All rational voters have a yardstick by which to evaluate whether politicians are abusing their power and acting arbitrarily. They have punished the pan-democrats for filibustering. They can do the same to members of the pro-establishment camp if they act outrageously. If the pro-establishment camp exploits its power rather than act within reason and tighten the Rules of Procedure out of partisanship, it will definitely be punished by voters in the next election.

明報社評2018.11.27:政治議題效果不彰 民主派須思考前路







take stock (of sth) : to think carefully about a situation or event and form an opinion about it, so that you can decide what to do

accentuate : to emphasise sth or make it more noticeable

field : to provide a candidate, speaker, team, etc. to represent you in an election, a competition, etc.

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