Candidate bottleneck means 30% of "elected" DC seats will be one-horse races
A candidate shortage stemming from under-sized nomination committees means the city won't have enough runners for any contest in 13 of 44 District Council constituencies.
**EDIT & CORRECTION: Apologies but this post is incorrect. In fact, each committee member can nominate one candidate in each constituency in their district. I wrote this in good faith after being contacted by a committee member who said they could only nominate one person. Seems they misunderstood the rules and, as the dedicated website for the election is quite unclear, I didnt find any information to the contrary. Apologies again for the error. The “invisible nomination committee” points in earlier posts stand!**
On Tuesday I took a quick look at a potential bottleneck in the District Council elections – the limited size of nomination committees which will hamper the free-flow of candidates into the election in larger districts.
Turns out, it’s much worse than I thought1.
Crunching the numbers for the whole city, not just the bigger districts, and we have an interesting election problem ahead.
Around a third of seat pairs, we can predict quite clearly, will have no contest. Not because there isn’t enough interest from candidates but because of the nomination bottleneck on the maximum number who can stand in any district. A total of 13 constituencies (29.5%) will have the winners declared as soon as the ballot papers are printed, and there will be no election for those seats.
Only 70% of seat pairs can have at least three players, giving some semblance of a “race” for those seats: but only 16 constituencies out of the 44 can, mathematically, have more than three candidates in the race. So only a few of the races will be particularly interesting.
The bottleneck is that each candidate needs three nominations from each of the Three Committees in their district. Generally, the Fire Safety Committee and Fight Crime Committees are the smallest, ranging from 18 to 34 members, and, with each committee member only allowed one nomination, candidate nominations are limited to between around 6 to 11 in each district.
In fact, mathematically speaking, only 146 nominations can be given citywide for the 88 seats (44 pairs) on offer, an average of 1.66 candidates per seat2. In Wan Chai, only five candidates will be able to get on the ballot (for one pair of seats, at least there will be a contest amongst them); in Sai Kung and Eastern, for example, a maximum of seven candidates will “compete” for six seats; in Sha Tin and Yuen Long, nine candidates will be listed for eight seats.
Again, this is by mathematical design and may cause some friction during the October nomination period: given how active various “Federation of Patriotic District Council Support” NGOs3 have been on the streets of Kowloon City and Yau Tsim Mong in the last few weeks, there will be no shortage of interest in filling the seats: there just aren’t enough nominations to go around.
The candidate shortage will surely have an impact on voter turnout: will people show up to vote in Sha Tin and Yuen Long, where 75% of the results will be determined before polling day? Will polling booths even be set up in those constituencies where the result is completely pre-determined?
My back-of-the-envelope published on Tuesday showed the general problem in a few districts but failed to take into account the fact that voters aren’t allowed to directly elect each seat, but each seat pair. The top two candidates will win the two seats in each constituency. This voting system actually paints over the lack of candidates somewhat: if each seat was directly elected, there would be something like 47% “one-horse races” citywide.
And this is assuming that every nomination committee member is in Hong Kong and participating in the nomination process during the 13-day nomination period. If any are absent, sick or unwilling, the candidate shortage could reach absurd levels.
In a perfect world, these street booths and flags promoting various “district community supporters” would be classed as “election activities” and properly regulated. However, finding out even the proper name of the organisation hosting the street booth is difficult, and the ones I spoke to claimed they were nothing to do with the upcoming election, merely “getting to know the community”. With giant pictures of their candidate flapping in everyone’s faces. Three weeks before nominations open.