Only three candidates not part of the pro-establishment camp are running in the Election Committee polls on Sunday as the body to nominate Legislative Council hopefuls and elect the chief executive will expectedly be dominated by people trusted by Beijing.
That means a plunge in the number of opposition candidates, after 352 of them took part in the 2016 elections in 14 out of 35 EC subsectors. They were able to snatch 325 out of 1,200 seats.
The vast majority of the opposition camp opted not to run in the new EC election.
The three oppositionists include founding chairman of centrist party Third Side, Tik Chi-yuen, and Sai Kung district council chairman Francis Chau Yin-ming, who will both run in the social welfare subsector. The other is Jason Poon Cheuk-hung, managing director of China Technology Corp, who will run in the religious subsector.
Even if the three of them were elected, their influence would be nearly nil in the chief executive election in March.
After the electoral changes passed by lawmakers in May, chief executive election candidates need to obtain at least 188 nominations from EC members, with at least 15 from each of the five sectors.
Given that they are elected, it would only be possible for them to nominate candidates for the Legco elections on December 19, as the electoral changes stipulate that a Legco candidate shall obtain two to four nominations from each sector of the EC.
Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said he believes there will be members from the opposition that are willing to check and balance the regime within the constitutional framework.
“I would suggest those people join the ‘patriotic camp’ to take on a role that can check and balance the government or push forward reforms,” Lau said.
If members of the opposition are not willing to join the patriotic camp, there will be limited room for them to maneuver outside of the governance structure, Lau said.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, senior lecturer in politics from Chinese University, said the opposition is not fighting for political influence because it is struggling to survive.
Over 1,100 of the 1,500 seats in the EC are either ex-officio members, appointed or uncontested, and the remaining 364 seats in 13 subsectors – including education and social welfare – will be elected from 412 candidates by 4,800 qualified voters.
That is drastic plunge from over 200,000 voters eligible for the EC election before the electoral reform.