The 2012 Legislative Council election race begins. Candidate nominations so far for geographical constituencies are here; ‘super-seats’ are here, and functional constituencies (not many right now) here. Why is the government listing the super-seats, officially the District Council (2nd) Functional Constituency, separately from the other FCs? It is a multi-member constituency, and it will be a universal-suffrage poll rather than a small-circle affair, so perhaps the tidy-minded bureaucrats instinctively felt it was different enough to form its own category.
The five super-seats will grab, or are grabbing, a disproportionate amount of attention. They are the result of Beijing’s extraordinary concession to the Democratic Party, presumably at the behest of then-Chief Executive Donald Tsang, to get a constitutional reform package through Legco two years ago. They form an FC as all candidates must be District Council members, yet they will be elected by the whole electorate (except those with existing FC votes). Needless to say, the concession was tweaked in the small print to minimize pro-democrats’ chances. In particular, the seats are at-large rather than divided along geographical constituency or other boundaries. Campaigning will take more resources, which favours the pro-Beijing camp.
The assumption is that being elected at-large, probably with hundreds of thousands of votes each, the five super-seat members will have an exceptional mandate of some sort. However, their voting power will be the same as any other legislators, and it’s arguable that people are getting a bit too worked up about these seats’ ‘super-ness’. Still, we’ll enter into the spirit of things.
Apart from the gruesome ‘media personality’ and former prison inmate Pamela Pak, all super-seat nominees as of this morning are from the well-organized DAB/FTU camp. It is quite possible that the top candidates in each DAB/FTU list will win a seat if the pro-Beijing establishment can guide voters’ behaviour to prevent everyone wasting votes on the same candidate/list. Lau Kong-wah is a popular veteran of the early democratic movement’s split; Starry Lee is the one oozing glamour and sexiness; the magnificent Chan Yuen-han is an authentic fighter for workers’ rights who manned the barricades alongside Longhair Leung Kwok-hung’s mother back in the days when factory workers did seven-day weeks.
The pro-democrats will of course go for the anti-charisma vote, probably with Democratic Party boss Albert Ho and sidekick James To, along with Frederick Fung, the moderate who resigned from the Equal Opportunities Commission a few days ago in a tiresome fit of pique. With such a feeble line-up, it is not impossible for someone more exotic (but not embalmed like Pamela Pak) to scrape in. And this may be a way for China’s newest citizen, Paul Zimmerman of Southern District, to get into Legco.
The alternative is for him to run as an Independent on Hong Kong Island, but that could cannibalize his Civic Party buddies’ share of the vote. You could ask why, if Zimmerman seems likely to attract more votes in the Island constituency, the CP are nominating someone else.* The fact is that this sort of thing is going on throughout the pan-democratic camp all over Hong Kong. Too many parties with too many chiefs.
Even if and when mainstream pan-democrats agree on not competing too much with each other in the geographical constituencies, the conflict between the DAB faction and the pan-dems remains. This is going to be seriously bitter, with Chief Executive CY Leung’s popularity, or lack thereof, playing a key role. Beijing’s local officials will be pulling strings (if not organizing outright vote-rigging), and you can be sure they are already finalizing their extra big list of pro-democrats’ extra-marital affairs and, in response to a recent surge in popular demand, illegal structures.
Some functional constituencies might see interesting fights (Margaret Ng is standing down in the Legal FC), and the super-seats will have a high profile. But the geographical constituencies will be the main battlefield, and the fight could be Hong Kong’s dirtiest ever. Enjoy!
* That is, he wouldn’t run as an Independent if he thought he wouldn’t win, and his fear of cannibalization suggests that it would be at the expense of the CP’s (by definition less-popular) number-two candidate. In other words, who’s Kenneth Chan?