Hong Kong Election Too Close To Call?

With Hong Kong’s elite group of representatives voting this weekend on the territory’s next chief executive, MarketWatch recaps the roller coaster campaign:

They say that art imitates life, but so far Hong Kong’s election campaign has most closely resembled one of its seamier low budget movies.

In recent weeks, the two leading candidates have been embroiled in everything from alleged triad links, an illegitimate child, secret mistresses, an illegal luxury basement to government business collusion in a major development tender.

When the mud stopped flying, former financial secretary Henry Tang had taken the most direct hits and was struggling to stay in the race. , a former cabinet member had limped into the lead and is expected to win Sunday’s election.

While both Tang and Leung have received public approval from the mainland, as is the case for all serious contenders for Hong Kong’s top post, The Wall Street Journal reports that has begun lean towards Leung as its preferred winner:

Beijing’s only official message on the Hong Kong vote has been a comment by Premier Wen Jiabao, who said last week that the city should choose a leader who enjoys the “support of the vast majority of the population.”

But Beijing’s preference has become more apparent in recent days. China Politburo member Liu Yandong, the nation’s highest-ranking female official, flew to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, to drum up support for Mr. Leung. Also this week, James Tien, a prominent local politician, said citizens should be prepared for a Leung victory.

While Hong Kong’s two main pro-Beijing papers have long stayed balanced in their coverage of both candidates, they have in recent days begun to tilt toward Mr. Leung. On Tuesday, one paper ran the headline “Leung Conveys Direction for Reconciliation.” On Wednesday, both papers reported how Mr. Leung won 51% of a mock vote among a group of Hong Kong secondary-school students.

In a separate article, The Wall Street Journal warns that unsatisfied electors and a pro-democracy spoiler candidate may push Sunday’s vote to a stalemate:

To win, a candidate needs the votes of a majority of the 1,200 electors—but a number of them have broached the possibility of casting blank votes, which could make reaching that target difficult. If two rounds of voting fail to produce a winner, a new election will be scheduled for May, with freshly nominated candidates.

The pro-democracy camp is backing the third candidate, Democratic Party Chairman Albert Ho, and has said none of its 200 electors will support Messrs. Tang or Leung. If Mr. Tang gets votes from half of the 390 electors who first nominated him, it would take just over 200 blank votes from other electors to hang the election.

For Beijing, already preoccupied with its own once-a-decade power transition later this year, that wouldn’t be its preferred outcome. But given current opinion polls, says Emily Lau, a pro-democracy legislator, a hung vote might be the best result as far as ordinary Hong Kongers are concerned.


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