Olympics factor generates pro-China votes in Hong Kong elections

September 7th, 2008 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, Sep 7 (DPA) Voting was underway in Hong Kong’s legislature elections Sunday with the “Olympics factor” expected to see pro-democracy parties lose ground to their China-friendly rivals.Sixty seats are being contested in the quadrennial elections with voters given the right to directly elect 30 legislators. The rest are chosen by largely pro-Beijing professional interest groups.

Some analysts said the wave of patriotism that swept Hong Kong during the Beijing Olympics and the visit last week by China gold medallists may help give pro-China groups a bigger share of the vote.

In the fiercely contested 2004 elections, pro-democracy parties in the former British colony took 25 of the 60 seats, giving them the power to halt any constitutional reform which requires a two-thirds legislative majority.

But with infighting in the pro-democracy camp and the dashing of hopes for universal suffrage in 2012, combined with the “Olympics factor,” China-friendly parties are expected to perform well this year.

The anticipated swing would see the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance Party and the business-oriented Liberal Party benefit while democracy movement stalwarts such as Emily Lau may even lose their seats.

Hong Kong was restored to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” arrangement allowing for limited democracy and an independent judicial and political system.

However, China has overruled provisions in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that allow for full democracy in the territory by 2007, insisting it will not be ready for universal suffrage until 2017 at the earliest.

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