Divided they fail
The pro-democracy political parties will have to cooperate more in future elections if they want to win more seats, the head of the largest pro-Beijing political party and the pan-democrat's biggest rival has said.
Mr Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, was commenting on the outcome of September's Legislative Council election.
In the election, the pan-democrats managed to win only 18 out of 35 seats in the geographical constituencies and three of the five so-called "super seats" in the new district council (second) functional constituency.
Including the seats they won in the traditional trade-based functional constituencies, the pan-democrats snatched 27 seats in the 70-member council, compared with 43 by the pro-estabishment camp.
Among the pan-democrats, the Democratic Party is seen as the biggest loser as it clinched only six seats, of which two were super seats, against eight in the 2008 election.
According to a system of proportional representation introduced in 1998, a candidate who is able to clinch a minimum number of ballots above a threshold is elected.
The system has fostered a so-called vote-splitting strategy among candidates in the same political camp. Instead of putting all the party's candidates under one ticket, they run under different tickets and ask their supporters to allocate their votes accordingly.
However, with little coordination over how votes are to be allocated, the strategy sometimes backfires, with even popular candidates failing to get elected.
In this year's election, votes for the Civic Party and the radical wings of the pan-democratic camp, including People Power and League of Social Democrats, were around 255,000 and 264,000 respectively, compared to 247,000 for the Democratic Party.
Were these votes cast evenly among the parties' candidates, more of them would have been elected.
Mr Tam said the Civic Party election strategy was "too ambitious", leading to setbacks for the Democratic Party, as many voters cast their ballots in favour of the former.
The Civic Party's decision to put incumbents Ms Tanya Chan Suk-chong and Ms Audrey Eu Yuet-mee as the second candidate on their respective electoral tickets on Hong Kong Island and New Territories West had led to a "waste of votes", he said.
As things turned out, while their lesser known colleagues placed first on the tickets were elected, the number of votes the tickets received were not enough to return them to the council.
Mr Tam saw a lack of co-ordination and poor vote-splitting among the pan-democrats as the main cause of their defeat in the election.
Mr Albert Ho Chun-yan, who resigned as chairman of the Democratic Party to take responsibility for its poor performance in the election, said the Civic Party, especially Ms Audrey Eu's electoral ticket, had drawn many votes from among his party's supporters, causing his party's core members Mr Lee Wing-tat and Ms Chan Shu-ying to lose by less than 1,000 and 3,000 votes respectively.
Mr Ho admitted that vote-splitting was difficult to implement this year as many candidates tried to appeal for so-called sympathy votes.
"Candidates like Mr James To Kun-sun who ran for the district council (second) functional constituency enlisted support from newspapers and drained away the votes of other candidates," said Mr Ho, without making it clear if there was infighting among party members.
Chinese University professor of political science Ma Ngok said vote-splitting in the Legislative Council election put large political parties like the Democratic Party at a disadvantage while sustaining political diversity.
"The number of pan-democratic supporters is quite rigid, so non-mainstream democratic parties have to stand out to compete for votes," Prof Ma said.
He added that the pan-democratic candidates who scrambled for seats by increasing the number of electoral tickets to eight in order to secure the five seats in the New Territories West constituencies were "wasting votes".
Regarding the lack of coordination in the pan-democractic camp, Prof Ma said there were no reasons to get them united when the number of elected seats in the Legislative Council had increased.
"Different pan-democratic parties have different ideologies – and that is why they are separate," he said.
Reported by Katheleen Wong
Barefoot running shoes take on conventional trainers
Against all odds