Looking forward: The world stage - Hong Kong

Legislative polls to reveal city's political sentiments

Slightly over three years ago, Hong Kongers went to the polls to elect their legislators.

The conclusion from the results - radicals gained more support while moderates lost ground - was a grim one: The city would become increasingly ungovernable.

This worry has been more than borne out since.

Hong Kong has been mired in paralysis. The already unpopular administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying became even more distrusted, while the Legislative Council (LegCo) thwarts and blocks its proposed policies.

In 2014, the city went through its greatest unrest in recent times - the 79-day Occupy movement to lobby for greater freedoms to elect their leader.

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Last year, the LegCo, decrying what it termed "fake democracy", vetoed a government proposal for constitutional reform that essentially allowed only Beijing-approved candidates to run in future chief executive elections.

This September, Hong Kongers will once again choose their legislators. The elections will be watched for various things. In the absence of a direct election for the top leader, they will be the most important race that will lay bare Hong Kongers' political sentiments.

The city's denizens are clearly weary of politics. Trust in the government and politicians on both sides of the spectrum, whether the pan-democrat or the pro-establishment camp, is lower than ever.

In the absence of a direct election for the city's top leader, the legislative elections will be the most important race that will lay bare Hong Kongers' political sentiments.

The voter turnout in the LegCo race will reveal what they want to see done about this: Low numbers will suggest apathy and cynicism that nothing can or will change. High numbers traditionally favour the pan-democrats and will suggest that concern about issues such as political reform and civil liberties remains high.

The results themselves also matter. Pro-establishment legislators have been given a clear brief: win the two-thirds super-majority they need to pass legislation.

The controversial national security legislation, Article 23, which has been thwarted, is also looming on the horizon, with Beijing wanting to see it passed.

Li Xueying

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2016, with the headline 'Legislative polls to reveal city's political sentiments'. Print Edition | Subscribe