....... Divertimento: Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive

Monday, 26 March 2012

Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive

With the 2012 elections over, I ponder over the vote results. Of the total possible 1,193 votes, C.Y. Leung gained 689, Henry Tang 285 and Albert Ho 76 votes. There were 82 invalid votes and 61 absentees.

Congratulations to C.Y. Leung. The South China Morning Post (front page today) deemed this an unconvincing victory as he had won with only 57.7 percent of the votes available. In contrast, the first Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa won 320 of 400 votes in 1996. In 2007 the incumbent, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was re-elected to his current term with 649 votes from the 796 strong Election Committee (or 81.5 percent). Well, in my opinion, it was a decisive win when you look into the genesis of the race. In the beginning, Henry Tang was a shoo in. In the end, he gained less than half the votes C.Y. Leung did having lost the confidence of his early supporters. The cynic might say that C.Y. Leung did not win the race but was handed victory by Henry Tang who could not keep himself out of negative limelight. Towards election crunch time, Henry Tang’s chances of being elected started to fade. The question then on people’s minds was whether C.Y. Leung could gain the threshold 601 votes.

There is also a ground swell of the Hong Kong population who are unhappy that anyone had won. These are the people who favour returning “white tickets” 白票 to demonstrate their dissatisfaction over the three candidates. The HK University ran a mock poll open to all HK residents with a permanent identity card. 220,000 people voted. The majority of people returned “white tickets”. This may be appropriate for a mock election but I query whether this would be practical in the case of a real election. In any case, C.Y. Leung polled slightly better than Henry Tang, with 17 percent of the mock votes.

Another question that mystifies me is the number of what I’d call “no votes” i.e. the invalid votes and the absentees. In a jurisdiction where the population is craving for universal suffrage, did these fortunate 143 people entrusted with the important task of selecting Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive not appreciate the privilege and the responsibility they carried? Surely these 143 appreciated the fact that there is no “do nothing” option? By doing so, they have allowed others to decide for them. If they have reservations about all three candidates, did these people not realize that in any event, one of the three candidates was likely be elected anyway and it would have been better to vote for the best of the three than to bury your head in the sand and hope for the whole thing to start again with fresh candidates? Fortunately, it was not a close outcome and the 143 votes would not have changed the results. In the end, C.Y.Leung won by 404 votes and he had the necessary minimum number of votes. Fortunately, these 143 “no votes” did not matter in the end. However, in my opinion the privilege should be permanently withdrawn from them.

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