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Editorial:A wave of change sweeping across district councils

【明報專訊】IT was an election battle carrying extraordinary meanings and producing markedly one-sided results. The pro-democracy camp grabbed more than 80% of district council seats in a landslide victory against the pro-establishment camp that obtained only 10% of the seats. With an unprecedentedly high turnout of voters, the election results have manifested both the changing and unchanged faces of Hong Kong politics. On the one hand, a large number of people cast their votes to express dissatisfaction with the government and even the entire establishment, thus spelling the end of the pro-establishment camp's long-standing control of the district councils. On the other hand, the ratio of the pan-democrats' share of votes to that of the pro-establishment camp remains largely unchanged at approximately 6:4. The relationship between the public and the government, as well as that between Hong Kong society and the central government, can no longer be restored to the point before the storm over the extradition law broke out. The district council elections have reflected a structural change inside Hong Kong. Now that nearly three million voters have expressed their preferences in a peaceful and non-violent way, both the SAR government and the central government are obliged to contemplate how to address public opinion and people's demands. Options from setting up an independent commission of inquiry to reshuffling the SAR government should all be considered.

A record number of over 2.94 million voters, or 71% of all, turned out in this year's district council elections. The turnout rate was 30 percentage points higher than those of the previous elections. Many voters willingly lined up and waited for more than an hour in order to cast a sacred vote and express their opinions peacefully. The pro-establishment camp lost an unprecedented number of district council seats. They lost more than they did in the 2003 district council election battle. However, it is noteworthy that the ratio of the pan-democrats' share of votes to that of the pro-establishment camp remains somewhere between 5.5:4.5 and 6:4. There are no fundamental changes to the "golden ratio of six to four", which was often mentioned during Legislative Council elections in the past.

One may say the election results show that many people who did not vote in previous district council elections have cast their votes this time to support the "five key demands" raised by the pro-democracy camp as well as to oppose the government and the pro-establishment camp. But likewise, one also has to acknowledge that many who did not vote in the past have voted for the pro-establishment camp in the hope of "stopping the unrest by voting". Because of this, the percentages of votes obtained by the two sides have shown no significant deviation from the "golden ratio".

The pro-democracy camp has described the election as a "referendum on the five key demands" while the pro-establishment camp has called on people to "stop the unrest by voting". Both camps have campaigned in such a way that has turned the election into a referendum in their campaigns. Most voters also went to the polling stations with the feeling of declaring one's political position. However, when comprehending the election from the angle of a "de-facto referendum", we must bear in mind one thing — despite the polarity between the pro-democracy camp and the pro-establishment camp, demanding the government address public demands and demanding people curb violence and stop the unrest are not mutually exclusive. People who voted to support the "five key demands" do not necessarily advocate violence and want further turmoil in society. In the same way, those who believed in "stopping the unrest by voting" do not necessarily object to the demand for setting up an independent commission of inquiry.

The first and foremost duty of a district council is to handle affairs in the district appropriately. With authority comes responsibility. We hope the pro-democracy camp will rise above political and ideological disputes and make good use of their overwhelming control of the district councils to achieve more in enhancing the livelihood of residents across districts.

明報社評 2019.11.26:區議會選情如海嘯 新局地方包圍政府

一場意義非比尋常的選戰,一個議席差距懸殊的賽果。民主派在區議會選舉大捷,奪取逾八成議席,建制派議席僅得一成。今次區選投票率之高史無前例,選舉結果體現了香港政治形勢變與不變:大批選民向政府以至整個建制投下不滿一票,打破建制派長期控制區議會的局面,與此同時,民主派與建制派得票率「六四開」大格局並未改變。市民與政府關係、香港社會與中央關係,已無法回到修例風波之前,這次區選反映了香港內部結構性的轉變,近300萬選民以和平非暴力方式表達意願,特區政府也好,中央也好,都要思考如何回應民情訴求,由成立獨立調查委員會,到重組特區領導班子,均應納入考慮之列。

今屆區選超過294萬人投票,投票率逾71%,打破歷來紀錄,比上屆投票率高出近30個百分點,不少選民甘願排長龍苦候個多小時,為的就是投下神聖一票,和平表達意見。建制派所失議席之多前所未見,情况尤甚於2003年區選一役。不過有一點需要留意,若論整體得票率,民主派與建制派的比例,依舊介乎「五五對四五」到「六四開」之間,以往立法會選舉經常談論的「六四黃金定律」,未見根本變化。

若說今次選舉結果,反映過去很多沒有參與區選投票的人,投票支持民主派「五大訴求」,反對政府和建制派,同樣需要承認是有很多以往不投票的人,將選票投給建制派,希望「以票止亂」,導致兩陣得票率並未明顯偏離「黃金比例」。

民主派將這次區選形容為「五大訴求一起公投」,建制派則呼籲「以票止亂」。兩大陣營拉票操作,均將這次區選「公投化」,大部分選民也是抱着政治表態的心情去投票。從「變相公投」角度解讀這次選舉,有一點必須緊記:民主派與建制派之爭雖屬二元對立,可是要求政府回應訴求,與要求止暴制亂,本身並不是非此即彼、相互排斥的選項。投票支持「五大訴求」,不一定鼓吹暴力、希望社會亂下去;同理,支持「以票止亂」者,也不代表反對成立獨立調查委員會等訴求。

區議會首要職責,就是處理好地區事務,有權必然有責,期望民主派能超越政治和意識形態紛爭,善用在區議會的壓倒優勢,多做地方民生實事。

■Glossary

reshuffle:to change the positions of people or things within a particular group

deviation:the action of doing something that is different from the usual or common way of behaving

referendum:a vote in which all the people in a country or an area are asked to give their opinion about or decide an important political or social question

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