Long queues have been forming at Hong Kong polling stations as the District Council election on Sunday saw unprecedented turnout rates.
The District Council election is the only fully democratic city-wide election in the city.
It is being seen as a pseudo-referendum between the pro-democracy camp and the pro-Beijing camp, with more than four million people eligible to cast votes amid five months of large-scale protests.
Voting for the 452-seat election started at 7:30am. According to the government, 720,455 people had cast their as of 10:30am, translating to a turnout rate of 17.43 per cent. The figure is much higher than the turnout rate of 6.79 per cent seen during the same time at the 2015 District Council election.
Long queues were observed at multiple polling stations across Hong Kong, including in Tuen Mun town centre, Yuen Long, Tai Koo Shing, Tin Hau and Ma On Shan among other places. A voter at Laguna City in Kowloon told Apple Daily that the queuing time to cast a ballot was 90 minutes.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) November 23, 2019
At City One in Sha Tin, a middle-class area, the turnout rate was 25.39 per cent as of 10:30am – much higher than the city-wide average. The pro-Beijing camp won without being challenged in 2015 – but all seats are being contested during Sunday’s critical poll.
Joshua Wong, secretary-general of the activism group Demosisto, was the only one out of more than 1,000 candidates to be disqualified by the government from running. However, substitute candidate Kelvin Lam is running with Wong’s support against incumbent South Horizon district councillor Judy Chan, of the New People’s Party.
The very first thing to do today: cast your ballot!
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒
(@joshuawongcf) November 24, 2019
Wong urged all voters to vote: “Not one vote less.”
“This is a battle to show our public opinion against Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Chinese President Xi Jinping,” he said.
Carrie Lam voted in the morning.
“We are facing an extremely challenging situation in organising this year’s elections but I’m pleased to say that with the concerted efforts of all parties, including, of course, over 30,000 civil servants in many departments working today, we should have a relatively peaceful and calm environment to conduct these elections successfully,” she said.
“I’m sure each registered voter will take into account all factors in deciding their choices,” she added.
The District Council election is conducted with a first-past-the-post system, whereby a third candidate in a constituency may cause a “split vote” when competing against two other candidates.
The prevalence of “ghost voters” – those registered at non-existent addresses – could have an effect on the results. Likewise, it remains to be seen how the inclusion of candidates running as “independents” – with no clear political background – could influence the vote.
Hong Kong has seen more than five months of protests, initially against the now-withdrawn extradition bill. The movement has morphed into a bigger one with grander calls including democracy and investigation of police behaviour.
Riot police have been deployed across the territory during Sunday’s poll, though there have been calls online for protesters to stand down for the day.
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