Despite attracting less public attention, a turnout rate similar to that for the 2016 election was being recorded in the architectural and surveying functional constituency on Sunday with all eyes on whether a pro-democracy candidate could upset the odds and beat his strong pro-establishment rival.
As of 9.30pm, almost 66 per cent of voters – or 5,028 out of 7,619 registered voters – in the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sector had cast their votes, just 3.9 percentage points lower than at the same time in the 2016 Legislative Council election. The polls close at 10.30pm.
Former pro-establishment lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen – seen from the beginning as the front-runner – declared his campaign was in a “state of emergency” by 3pm.
“My situation is very critical as there is a very high chance of my opponent winning,” said Tse, referring to Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman, the candidate endorsed by the pro-democracy bloc.
The sector had been regarded as a pro-establishment stronghold, with Edward Yiu Chung-yim being the first pan-democrat since the handover to take the seat in 2016 – before being disqualified in the oath-taking saga.
Yiu’s victory was mainly down to infighting between two pro-establishment candidates, which was not an issue this time.
Tse said Zimmerman had “iron votes”, suggesting his rival could easily mobilise the pro-democracy voters to support him.
He also blamed the limited number of polling stations available in New Territories West and Kowloon East – where there is no by-election – for affecting the turnout and his chance of winning.
Just 11 polling stations have been set up in New Territories West and four in Kowloon East – Kowloon West in comparison has 72 stations.
“I hope my supporters go the extra mile to vote for me in a bid to defend our profession,” Tse said, as he slammed his opponent for not possessing a professional qualification in either architecture, surveying, planning or landscaping.
Zimmerman on Saturday described it as a “tight race”.
“We have seen from the 2016 Legco election to the Election Committee election that there is a continuous shift [of voters] supporting the democratic movement,” he said.
“And I am confident that the shift will continue to this election.”
The district councillor won the most number of votes – 2,524 – within the sector in the 2016 poll to decide the makeup of the Election Committee to elect the chief executive. Tse received 1,438 votes.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Kenneth Leung, of the Professionals Guild, also expressed confidence that Zimmerman could repeat history.
“A lot of thing have changed over the past two years and the pan-democrats are facing a lot of oppression,” he said. “Although professionals generally tend to be more conservative, I am sure they would make their choice rationally … and will not blindly support the government.”