You’d think it was a head of state election and not a municipal one. When was the last time a local election on a dot on the map made international headlines? But the international media is inordinately interested in Hong Kong these days.
This was a district council election, essentially to vote for the person who sees to small problems in your neighbourhood (admittedly paid handsomely for this as all government officials are).
But given we’ve seen nearly six months of protests this election was (again) being seen as a referendum. I say again because I’ve voted in a few and each time the pan-democrat camp touts it as a referendum.
Well, I’m sick of it. I’d like an election for once to be about what it’s supposed to be about and not a vote on whether Hong Kong wants democracy or not. Because the fact that people are voting already indicates that right (However, note that the number of registered voters is about 50% of the population and this is an ageing population, also that usually only about 40% of that 50% turn out to vote so let that tell you what you need to know about enthusiasm for democracy).
This time was different though. There was a record turnout – 71% of the registered voters. I usually go to vote early and it’s usually me and five oldies. This time there was a queue stretching all the way down the street.
There were clearly a lot of first time voters. While many of these were supposed to be young people, I saw a lot of confused older people who didn’t know which queue to stand in. (The queues were kinda confusing. You needed to line up based on your hkid number but the boards telling you this were at the front of the lines not the back so you might not realise you were in the wrong queue till you got to the front, like one furious grandma did.)
Speaking of grandmas there were rumours that the elderly were being allowed to skip the queue … and people were angry about this! Because the elderly tend to vote for the pro-establishment/pro-Beijing side. The latter parties are notorious for busing in elderly from care homes presumably on the understanding that they vote for the party that bussed them in.
Anyway the Election Commission denied elderly were being allowed to vote first and I didn’t see this either. I did feel sorry for the older peeps queuing up though.
Another rumour was that polling stations would shut early so people should vote early to make sure their votes are counting – hence the long queues at 8 am. This doesn’t make sense and the Election Commission clarified that if in case of violence or any other reason a polling station had to be closed the vote there would be postponed or redone on another day. But people clearly believed the rumours which just goes to show the public mood.
I was conflicted over whether to vote at all. I was disillusioned by how the pan-democrats were piggybacking onto the protests but were clearly too scared to counter the protest narrative in any way – even when a man was set on fire. Even candidates who are lawyers have fuelled the rumour mongering.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the protesters. I just don’t condone everything they do and I think one useful thing the pan-Democrat politicians could do (because they are not actually out there protesting) is to sound a note of moderation when it’s needed (like when someone gets set on fire). But they dare not, because there’s some “with us or against us” thing going on that precludes any criticism (more on that in another post possibly).
I ended up asking V whether he thought I should vote. He said that since I’ve gone through all the trouble of being able to vote, I should. V, by the way, doesn’t vote because he thinks it’s pointless.
Which is a view I’m coming to. But I guess I’m a sucker for democracy. It’s like how in the worst times I pray even though rationally don’t believe in god. Except that I pray when I’m desperate but I’m not even remotely desperate now so I guess I’m more hooked on democracy than religion. Heh.
I finally settled on an independent because a) he’s actually done work in the area b) wrote a few lines on said work on his pamphlet IN ENGLISH.
That’s another pet peeve: how the democrats (except perhaps in fancy HK Island type constituencies) never make an effort to make even the smallest attempt to address a non-Chinese audience.
So, once again, I end up voting not for the person that takes the trouble to promise me something but on some abstract ideal. In Hong Kong, it’s democracy. In India, it’s the hope that you will be not be burnt alive for not being Hindu.
And I’m sick of it. Not sick enough to vote for the BJP in India or even a pro-Beijjng candidate in Hong Kong (thoughd I might countenance a pro-BJ who writes something in English in a less crucial election, if there ever is one).
In this case, the pan-Democrat was finally seen on the street on election morning, where he actually thanked me for my support in English and I wavered briefly but then decided it was too little too late.
Anyway the independent I voted for won, pro-Beijing guy was second and the pan-democrat came a poor third. So it appears I my district there is actually a silent majority, who are not screaming in support of the protests at 10 pm.
My district is clearly an outlier though. Hong Kong voted overwhelming in favor of the Democrats, telling Beijing and our local government to stuff it. I can’t say I’m displeased with the result.