Honey and Lemon really does work
The merry-go-round continues

The spin cycle

Before Sunday's by-election, Lau Nai-keung offered this "simple" analysis (End of the line for the pan-democrats? - subscription required):

All eyes are on the turnout rate for this Sunday's Legislative Council by-election. There are roughly 600,000 registered voters in the Hong Kong Island constituency. Judging by the results of the recent district council elections, the "loyalists" can be expected to rally upwards of 140,000 voters. Thus, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee - backed by the pro-Beijing camp - can count on these votes.

Therefore, a turnout of below 280,000 - or 47 per cent - would mean defeat for Anson Chan Fang On-sang, who has the backing of the pro-democracy camp. The logic is so simple that it almost defies further  analysis.

The turnout rates of most by-elections are low; in the last Legco by-election, in 2000, the figure was less than 34 per cent. If that were to be repeated, Mrs Chan would suffer a humiliating defeat.

Well, as we know, she did not suffer a humiliating defeat.  Perhaps more Interestingly, Regina Ip, somehow contrived to get only 137,550 votes.  If we accept the figure of 140,000 "cast iron" votes for pro-Beijing candidates, she somehow managed to misplace 2,500 of them.  Hardly a success story. 

Yet the spin that is being placed on this is that the "normal" result is a 60:40 margin in favour of the pro-democracy candidate, and as Regina Ip got more than 40% of the vote she can be judged to have been a success. 

Predictably, that was exactly the line that Lau Nai-keung took this week (Hello and goodbye):

The result of Sunday's Legislative Council by-election falls into the category of what I call a "humiliating victory". This is especially so in light of the extraordinarily high turnout rate of over 52 per cent which, according to conventional wisdom, favours the pro-democracy camp.

A winning margin of just 12 percentage points for Anson Chan Fang On-sang over Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee broke the long-held 60/40 rule (traditionally, democrats should expect 60 per cent of the vote to the pro-establishment's 40 per cent). This gave the "loyalists" ample space to declare their own victory. Isn't it nice to have a win-win outcome?

You can't have it both ways.  If you argue before the election that Regina Ip was guaranteed 140,000 votes and that Anson Chan could suffer a humiliating defeat, how can you describe 54.8% as a "humiliating victory"?

It's also bizarre to hear Beijing loyalists say that the democrats will always get 60% of the vote - all the more so after District Council elections when the DAB did well.  The democrats are surely entitled to be satisfied with the by-election result, as Chris Yeung points out in today's SCMP (A split decision):

The jury is still out on the election debut of what has been deemed the joint ticket of Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and the pro-Beijing, pro-government force in the Legislative Council by-election. Pointing to her 42.9 per cent vote share during a self-appraisal, the former secretary for security proclaimed her success in smashing the so-called "60-40 rule" for Hong Kong's direct elections.

She was referring to the widely held, though not necessarily accurate, notion that democrats should expect about 60 per cent of the total vote share in a "one person, one vote" election. The remaining 40 per cent would go to pro-Beijing, pro-government candidates.

Mrs Ip argued that, in view of by-election winner Anson Chan Fang On-sang's popularity, and her previous senior position in government, the former chief secretary should have been expected to garner around 70 per cent of the vote. In the end, Mrs Chan won 54.8 per cent.

Yet, Ng Hong-mun, a veteran adviser to the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, expressed disappointment with the result. He concurred with analysts that the margin of Mrs Chan's victory was larger than had been expected.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily quoted him as saying that they had predicted Mrs Ip would lose by no more than 20,000 votes; the actual figure was about 38,000.

But of course politics is like this all over the world.  Politicians are experts at finding highly-nuanced arguments that they they think make their party look good or their opponents look bad.  And we don't believe them.

Not sure why the SCMP bothers to print this nonsense, though...

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