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







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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