a boom in local risk assessment begins. That is not because a juicy initial
public offering is on offer. So relax, you did not miss something while on
No, this political risk assessment concerns the ``initial public offering''
of candidates for the September Legislative Council election. The boom in risk
assessment erupts today because Legco hopefuls have to start officially
declaring their intentions as of this morning. They have until August 4 to file.
The five geographic constituencies will return 30 members, up from 24 in
2000, while the functional constituencies maintain 30 seats. The additional six
seats of the geographic constituencies explain some of the increase. And when
incumbents such as Szeto Wah retire, candidates who discounted chances of
election against such giants reconsider the odds.
Several long-time incumbents of the functional constituencies are also
retiring. Retirement is even more important for functional constituencies since
most elect by first past the post rules. With both developments - extra
geographic constituencies and the retirement of heavy weights - the field has
opened up more than ever. There has been much jockeying, especially in the
geographic constituencies, with rumours flying of who has decided to stand and
with whom on their list, as well as who has decided to leave politics, therefore
shifting entrenched voting patterns.
Some rumours and news stories were tactical moves by candidates to spook
potential adversaries into declaring their intentions so they could reassess
where to declare and with whom to affiliate.
We heard, for example, Chan Yuen-han of the DAB was quitting the party she
co-founded and heading a separate list, then not quitting but still heading a
separate list. Another article said these stories were mere sensationalism.
We find out the truth today, maybe. Or she might delay filing to confuse her
opponents even more.
Keep 'em guessing is a good tactic not just in military campaigns but
political campaigns too. Tomorrow the news will be full of stories about who did
or did not declare candidacy. We will find out who will really head lists and
who will appear lower down the lists as well as how many lists the broad
groupings called pan-democrats and pro-government will put forward.
The proportional voting system gives the geographic constituencies a complex
set of risk factors. Instead of simple rules - whoever gets the most votes wins
- the list-system of geographic constituencies ``allocates'' seats based on the
proportion of the overall vote total a list takes.
For example, in the six-seat Hong Kong Island geographic constituency, a list
winning 16.67 per cent of the vote will theoretically take one seat. But if a
list gets, say, 26.67 per cent of the vote, 10 percentage points more, it could
end up with two seats of the six available if other lists get less than 10 per
cent in total or as a remainder.
Pan-democrats could take 80 per cent of votes but end up with two-thirds of
the seats, depending on how many lists they run and how voters distribute their
Parties have been adjusting their order of names as well as number of lists
in each geographic constituency. Those down the list get a better chance of
election if they have an attractive list-topping associate while those who have
weaker names first have chances of making it. However, an attractive name lower
down the list just might attract more votes because supporters want to ensure
their candidate gets into Legco. It is a gamble.
This will be the riskiest Legco election yet, not just for candidates and
parties but also for Beijing. Risking Legco control due to losses in the
functional constituencies was not something Beijing imagined with its April
intervention which stipulated these constituencies must keep half of Legco to at
least 2012. Hitherto, denouncing functional constituencies as anti-democratic in
nature, pan-democrats shunned contesting all but the biggest seats. But
pan-democrats changed their stance after Beijing's intervention, reasoning they
must gain these seats in order to win votes on abolishing functional
Odds that nine of 30 functional constituencies will not be contested as in
2000 are nil. The pan-democratic shift raises risks for seats once considered
safely pro-government. Raising the risks for politicians - forcing them to
compete more fiercely for support - should reward us with better government.