Timothy Peirson-Smith: Reflects on Election Committee elections

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The non-establishment camp must now remain consolidated if it is to become a genuine critical minority in the upcoming Chief Executive election.

2016 Election Committee Subsector Elections were held on 11 December 2016 with the 46% turnout, the highest turnout in history. The committee’s function is to elect the next Chief Executive, and has 1194 members. Except the de facto members and uncontested candidates (comprising LegCo members etc), 733 seats were elected yesterday by eligible voters from 25 functional constituencies.

According to the latest election result, the committee comprises 786 pro-Beijing members, 339 (including Pan Democrats) members from the non-establishment camp and 69 members who do not have apparent political inclination. The next Chief Executive will need to first join the race with at least 150 nominations from committee members then seize a simple majority of 601 votes in the Chief Executive Election on 26 March 2017.

Despite a Pro-Beijing domination in the committee, the non-establishment camp has exceeded their 300 seat target by taking 339 seats. In 2011, they only had 205 seats. The expanded number of the non-establishment camp in the committee is attributed to additional seats gained in 5 subsectors, namely accountancy, engineering, architectural surveying planning and landscape, health services and medical. The non-establishment camp also managed to secure key support in other subsectors such as social welfare, education, higher education, information technology and legal.

A surprise to many, the non-establishment camp has broken through some of subsectors which were regarded as former Chief Executive, CY Leung’s strongholds, such as architectural, surveying, planning and landscape subsector, ending up with only 171 of his supporters elected. It reflects strong disapproval of his administration that cannot even be mitigated by him announcing not seeking a second term.

According to the current distribution of seats, if Pro-Beijing votes equally splits to two or more Chief Executive candidates, the 327 votes from the non-establishment camp will be a critical minority. Although they have yet to decide who to support, their impacts on the final election result for the next Chief Executive should not be underestimated.

The high turnout rate is observed to be contributed by the young and first-time voters, primarily from professional fields. It is considered that they have tactically used their suffrage to signal protest against what they perceive to be an increasingly intensified intervention from Beijing.

All in all, this should make the Chief Executive election, in March 2017, a complex and fascinating affair that will have great bearing on the economic, business and social prospects for Hong Kong. We will revert with further analysis once all the Chief Executive candidates have thrown their hats into the ring over the next few days.


[starbox desc=”Timothy J Peirson-Smith

Timothy Peirson-Smith is the founder of Executive Counsel and an astute observer of the Hong Kong political scene and chairman of the Business Policy Unit of The British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.