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Monday, December 09, 2019

Explained: Amid the violence, what is Hong Kong voting for — and why?

The elections are a test of support for both the embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as the pro-democracy campaigners. The latter hope to be able to improve their representation on the council, which is generally seen to have some influence in deciding the Chief Executive.

, Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Published: November 24, 2019 4:03:38 pm
A record 4.1 million people — more than half the territory’s population of 7.4 million — had registered to vote. This number was only 3.1 million in 2015. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

A record 4.1 million people — more than half the territory’s population of 7.4 million — had registered to vote. This number was only 3.1 million in 2015.

A very large number of voters have turned out in the district council elections currently underway in Hong Kong.

By 4.30 pm (2 pm in India), over 2.1 million (21 lakh) people (52.14%) had voted, more than double the 7,54,705 (24.18%) who had cast their votes by the same time in the last such election in 2015, according to government figures cited by multiple media outlets.

Polling opened at 7.30 am local time. A record 4.1 million people — more than half the territory’s population of 7.4 million — had registered to vote. This number was only 3.1 million in 2015.

In 2015, the overall turnout had been 1.467 million voters; this figure was overtaken easily on Sunday (November 24) afternoon, and looked set to be more than doubled by the close of polling.

Why are the elections being held?

These elections are meant to elect councils for Hong Kong’s 18 districts, and are the first elections since mass anti-government, pro-democracy protests started in June, after the Hong Kong government proposed to introduce a Bill to extradite certain classes of accused persons to China to face trial.

The district council elections are meant to elect councillors who serve as the line of communication between the citizens and the government, taking care of issues such as transport and public affairs across Hong Kong city’s 18 districts.

The district council elections take place every four years. This is the first time that all 452 seats are being contested. Another 27 members will be appointed. In the last district council elections in 2015, the pro-establishment side won 298 out of the 431 elected seats.

District council elections have been held since 2000. This year, 1,090 candidates are in the fray.

Why are these elections important?

The district council elections are the only elections in the territory in which direct voting is held.

These elections are being held at a time of extraordinary strife in a territory known for his orderliness and the rule of law.

The elections are a test of support for both the embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as the pro-democracy campaigners. The latter hope to be able to improve their representation on the council, which is generally seen to have some influence in deciding the Chief Executive.

The candidates in the fray are split broadly into the pro-establishment, pro-democracy, and the politically neutral camps.

A letter to the editor published in The South China Morning Post said: “…It is time for an immediate ceasefire by all parties, to allow what is effectively a public referendum on the make-up of Hong Kong’s future governance.”

The letter writer also urged both the protesters and their opponents to cease fire, and to not sabotage the elections.

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