Democrats face DQ dilemma

Editorial | Mary Ma 10 Sep 2021

Today, the first group of remaining district councillors will attend an oath-swearing ceremony so that they can continue to serve in the councils.

Three more rounds will be held later, but it's not yet known when the entire exercise will be completed.

The ceremony is by invitation only and attendees won't be informed of the outcome until a later date.

Attention is drawn not only to how many will be disqualified as a result but also to the Democratic Party, which is under increasing pressure from the establishment not to stop any party members from contesting the upcoming Legislative Council election.

The party faces a dilemma.

If it stops members from running, it could be accused of violating the national security law in respect of its election provisions.

If it decides to field candidates for the Legco vote, the party will antagonize its remaining supporters in the grassroots.

So will the oath-swearing ceremony be the beginning of a new wave of disqualifications?

That is unlikely since it is also in Beijing's interest to see the Democrats participate to "decorate" an election and the legislature. Disqualifying a large number of the remaining council members will not only poison the atmosphere but also strip the Democratic Party of eligible candidates.

Although it is inevitable that some councillors will be disqualified, the majority of those remaining are expected to survive the ceremony.

It should also be noted that the Democratic Party's general meeting will be held on September 26 and, by that time, the oath exercise may still be under way with only some results made known.

The arrangement to withhold the results for a while after each ceremony will create more room to influence the party before and during its general meeting.

Or will the party agree to go along? Democrats are currently bitterly divided over the matter. After more than half the district councillors resigned in droves in July, it's only to be expected that those remaining are inclined to keep a role in politics.

Of the 211 remaining, only 20-plus are Democrats. It's probable that, finding itself wedged between a rock and a hard place, the party will decide at its general meeting against fielding candidates in the party's name while permitting members to contest in their individual capacity without subjecting them to party discipline.

It's almost a foregone conclusion that, whichever way the party decides, some members will run for a corner in the overhauled Legco.

But, even then, the problem isn't over for the Democrats who will be running.

This is an election and how voters think matters.

The party conducted an opinion poll in August and found more than 60 percent of the respondents were opposed to them participating in the election and just a little over 20 percent favored their taking part.

If the findings of the survey are reflected in the vote, the Democrats will unlikely win a seat unless some pro-establishment supporters "defect" to vote for them.

Let's stay tuned to the development.



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