The three main pro-democracy candidates in Sunday’s Legislative Council by-election have made emergency calls for votes amid fears they could lose due to a lower than expected turnout.

As of 5:30pm – five hours before polls close – the total turnout for the three contested geographical constituencies was 27.92 percent, far lower than the 35.30 percent recorded at the same time during the 2016 legislative general elections.

Au Nok-hin. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Voter turnout was 28.86 percent in Hong Kong Island, 29.67 percent in Kowloon West and 26.46 percent in New Territories East. In 2016, turnout as of 5:30pm was at 37.2 percent, 36.04 percent, and 35.77 percent respectively.

However, architectural functional constituency voters turned out to vote in greater numbers than two years ago. A 47.01 percent turnout was recorded for the small-circle constituency, compared with 45.41 percent as of the same time in 2016.

‘Way far behind’

Over the course of the afternoon, the main pro-democracy candidates – Au Nok-hin, Edward Yiu and Gary Fan – all made urgent calls for votes, saying that the low turnout would benefit pro-Beijing rivals.

“A lot of polling stations are way far behind,” ousted Hong Kong Island legislator Nathan Law told HKFP.

HKFP speaks to ex-lawmaker Nathan Law, as he urges voters to turn out

🔴 HKFP #ByElection Live: HKFP speaks to ex- 香港眾志 Demosistō lawmaker 迎難而上聰聰團-Nathan Law, who had just joined democrats in making an emergency call for voters to turn out. His seat is up for grabs after he was ousted from the legislature in 2016.

Posted by Hong Kong Free Press HKFP on Sunday, 11 March 2018

“For by-elections, normally the turnout rate is lower than [in general] elections, because [in] elections there are many competitors,” he added. “The motive for people coming out is lower [in by-elections.]”

See also: HKFP Live: Hong Kong Legislative By-election 2018

In New Territories East – the constituency with the lowest turnout so far – lawmaker Ray Chan told voters not to underestimate the strength of the pro-Beijing camp, despite the fact that it only won three out of nine seats in 2016.

“[You think pro-democracy candidate] Gary Fan can definitely win the election by sitting down,” he told reporters. “But the more people think that… the more dangerous the situation becomes.”

The main pro-Beijing candidates – Judy Chan, Vincent Cheng and Bill Tang – also made emergency appeals for votes on Saturday.

A Judy Chan supporter. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The other candidates in the geographical constituencies are Edward Yum and Ng Dick-hay (Hong Kong Island); Jonathan Tsoi (Kowloon West); and Christine Fong, Nelson Wong, Estella Chan and Joyce Chiu in New Territories East.

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Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.