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Monday, September 5, 2016, 07:27

Historic high turnout delays results

By Luis Liu in Hong Kong

Historic high turnout delays results
Justice Barnabas Fung Wah (second left), chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, opens the ballot box of the Legislative Council election in the Central Counting Station at the AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong International Airport, on Sunday. (Edmond Tang / China Daily)

Hong Kong was headed for a historic high turnout in the 2016 Legislative Council (LegCo) elections on Sunday, with a total turnout rate of about 58 percent while results were expected to be somewhat delayed as the last vote was cast at nearly around 2.30 am - four hours after the polls were scheduled to close.

A total turnout rate of 53.05 percent was recorded in the last LegCo election four years ago.

A total of around 2.2 million voters out of an eligible 3.7-million electorate have cast their ballots at the city’s 571 polling stations, said Justice Barnabas Fung Wah, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission.

Long queues were seen snaking their way around some polling stations even after polling had closed at 10:30 pm to pick their representatives for the SAR’s sixth legislature since the handover.

At a polling station in Tai Koo Shing, several hundred people were still waiting to cast their ballots three hours after polling had ended, complaining that the Electoral Affairs Commission had seriously underestimated the voter turnout.

Due to the delay in voting at Tai Koo Shing, Electoral Affairs Commission chair Barnabas Fung said results of the election may be delayed somewhat, with results from functional constituencies not expected until around noon on Monday.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the public had actively participated in the election. He said that due to the efforts by all the relevant government departments and staff involved, the polling had been conducted in an open, fair and honest manner, and in strict accordance with the relevant legislation and electoral guidelines.

Political pundits said the strong voter response may have resulted from widespread public dissatisfaction with the city’s current political situation.

Veteran political analyst Song Sio-chong said the political wrangling, including the illegal “Occupy Central” protests in 2014, the emergence of separatist forces and continued filibustering by opposition lawmakers in LegCo, have contributed to public unease.

Historic high turnout delays results
Staff of Registration and Electoral Office count ballots at the Central Counting Station at AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong Int ernational Airport, Lantau on Sep 5, 2016. (Edmond Tang / China Daily)

LegCo Secretariat statistics showed that out of the 2,186 legislative working hours during the 2012-16 term, 452 hours had been wasted due to quorum calls and aborted meetings.

Song also noted that the huge disparity among various election-related opinion polls had confused voters, which made many voters feel their preferred candidates were in danger. Such a mentality, he said, had also pushed up the turnout rate.

Moreover, the opposition camp had become more fragmented, further complicating the entire political landscape, Song said, and that may have also prompted more people to come out and make their voices heard.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and former head of the city's Central Policy Unit, agreed that fragmentation of the political spectrum will make it even harder for the Hong Kong government to work with legislators to reach a consensus as no one can unite the “pan-democratic” camp.

This year’s elections also saw a record 289 candidates in the race to enter the city’s legislature. The number of candidate lists competing for the 35 seats in the five geographical constituencies also hit a record high of 84, compared with 67 in the last LegCo polls in 2012.

The 70 members of the local legislature comprise 35 lawmakers elected from five geographical constituencies, 30 from the traditional functional constituencies in different trades and five “super seats” in the District Council (Second) functional constituency.

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