A Sociological Analysis of the Hong Kong Chief Executive Election

The actual election results are this (at news.gov.hk):

Donald Tsang has won the third-term Chief Executive election, with 649 votes, or 84% of the total valid votes.

The first round of voting started at 9am and ended at 11am, with 789 Election Committee members casting their votes, a 99.1% turnout rate. There were 772 valid votes. Contender Alan Leong got 123 votes. As Mr Tsang got well over half of the votes, there was no need for a second round of voting.

There is a separate election being run for the hearts and minds of the people of Hong Kong.  Independently of the Election Committee of 800 persons, how would the people vote if they had a vote?  Here is the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme poll released on the eve of the vote (CE Election rolling survey):

Question: If you were to vote for the Chief Executive tomorrow, which one would you choose? 

Donald Tsang: 83.2%
Alan Leong: 10.3%

[Note: If the 'none of the above/no opinion/don't know' responses are removed, then Donald Tsang gets 87% of the 'votes'.]

What kind of post-election analysis can be made out of the polling data?  This is helpful to understand where Alan Leong's strengths and weaknesses are.  Since he has expressed the desire to run in 2012 again, he should capitalize on his strengths and mend his weaknesses.  The Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme poll contains political and democratic breakdowns:

Total Politics:
50 or over
or below
10.3% 20.5% 0.0% 10.6% 6.6% 14.1% 6.7% 11.5% 13.9% 4.8% 1.0% 10.9% 15.6% 20.3% 8.0% 11.9% 7.6%

So the strengths of Alan Leong are among 

(1) people who identified themselves as being in the pro-democracy camp;
(2) people who have tertiary or higher education;
(3) people who are professional/managers.

It is noted that Leong only gets 20.5% of the votes in his most obvious constituency base: "those people who identified themselves as being in the pro-democracy camp."  Why was this number for that group so low?

Another piece of evidence can be found at the public opinion poll during The Second Hong Kong Chief Executive Election Debate televised on March 15.

Q1.  Who performed better in the debate? 
Donald Tsang: 38.5%
Alan Leong: 38.8%

Q2. If you had a vote tomorrow, who would you vote for?
Donald Tsang: 64.8%
Alan Leong: 21.9%

Alan Leong won the debate by a whisker, but the public nevertheless gave Donald Tsang a lead of more than 40% in the "hypothetical vote."

Why is the public not persuaded by the debate performance?  There must be something in the back of their minds.  Maybe the people of Hong Kong are smart enough to recognize that the winner of debates is only good at winning debates but not necessarily the best leader, or maybe it is something else.  Earlier in the year, the Hong Kong Lingnan University's Public Governance Programme had conducted a public opinion poll of which the following results were obtained (Comment 200702#024):

Q4-Q9. Please evaluate which of Donald Tsang or Alan Leong is better along the following attributes:
  Tsang better Leong better Equally good Equally bad Don't know
/no opinion
Q4. Governance 72.7% 3.6% 2.8% 1.3% 19.5%
Q5. Leadership 71.2% 4.2% 3.3% 1.5% 19.7%
Q6. Trustworthiness 42.4% 14.4% 8.9% 3.9% 30.2%
Q7. Clear path of development for Hong Kong 58.2% 8.2% 3.7% 4.2% 25.6%
Q8. Better relationship with central government 88.4% 0.9% 0.6% 0.2% 9.6%
Q9. Closer to mainstream Hong Kong opinion 45.2% 26.5% 4.2% 2.3% 22.0%

Q10.  Which of the following items should the next Chief Executive give priority to?  (Read list of seven items in randomized order)
28.8% transformation of economy
- 26.6% inequality of wealth
- 12.5% education
-  9.3% environmental protection
-  6.4% food safety
-  5.7% development of democracy
-  2.3% housing
-  2.6% other
-  5.7% don't know/no opinion

In studying Q10, it should be noted that Alan Leong's strongest issue of "development of democracy" is tops for only 5.7% of the people.  If Leong wants to touch the hearts of the people, he better highlight "transformation of economy" and "inequality of wealth."

In studying Q4-Q9, it is not enough to bring up the right heart-tucking issues, but you must convince the people that you have the ability to deliver on your campaign promises.  On the six attributes in Q4-Q9, Leong trails badly on 'governance,' 'leadership' and 'better relationship with the central government.'

Here I will borrow from an anonymous commentator at the Derek Greyhound blog about how the system is rigged against Leong from doing better on 'governance,' 'leadership' and 'better relationship with the central government.'

I have often felt that the Chief Executive election is unfair to the pan-democratic camp, because they have no way of demonstrating their leadership talents.  Donald Tsang is taking advantage of the structure of the political system.  His administrative experience is derived from his job as administrative officer.  But to be a senior administrative official that the public could recognize in those days, he had to think the same way as the British colonial governor (that is, he cannot demand universal suffrage and he cannot oppose the British colonial government).  On account of their beliefs, the pan-democracy camp members could not do the same.  Their only choice was to run for the Legislative Council.

But we know that administrative experience and legislative experience are two completely different matters.  The needs and the displays of authority are very different.  In the last few decades of American presidential elections, most of them were won by vice-presidents and state governors, with John F. Kennedy being the lone Senator to win.  Most of the pan-democracy camp members are excluded outside of the administrative branch, which means that they lack administrative experience.  When the citizens get to choose, they would rather pick certain experienced and pragmatic administrators.  The Hong Kong government keeps talking about nurturing political leaders through the establishment of assistant secretaries.  But those are plum political jobs meted out to the DAB and Liberal Parties with nothing for the democratic opposition.  If you think about this deeper, the whole thing was planned by the government to make sure there is no experienced pan-democratic candidate with the experience of the pro-system party candidates who will then win such elections.

[Before Alan Leong became the candidate, the pan-democracy camp was pinning its hope on former Chief Secretary Anson Chan.  That would not be because her values match those of the pan-democracy camp, but because her credentials as Chief Secretary gave her instant credibility on "governance" and "leadership."  In fact, she had been Donald Tsang's boss!]

... I have to sigh and observe that great western leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill never achieved 83% support.  But the far inferior Donald Tsang actually managed that.  That is such a bewildering sight to behold.

So I would suggest that the fight is to change the system such that it is not rigged against people who are not government insiders.  Without that, you can have Alan Leong winning all the debates and you can even run Andy Lau or Chow Yun-fat to win the popularity contest (name recognition, likeability, trust, etc), but ... when push comes to shove ... the people will still prefer an experienced and pragmatic administrative officer from within the system (possibly from one of the pro-system political parties), as the Chief Executive.

In 2012, Donald Tsang will no longer be around.  Who might Alan Leong run against?  For example, it might be current Secretary of Finance Henry Tang, who has been handing out tax refunds and other goodies all around.  The same conditions will be reproduced in 2012 and Alan Leong will still have no administrative experience to display the 'governance,' 'leadership' and 'good relationship with the central government' that will solve the problems of 'transformation of economy,' 'inequality of wealth' and 'development of democracy.'

Postscript:  Within twenty-four hours of writing the above, all three cited public opinion sources published updates.  I have decided not to go back and revise the above.  For those interested, the links are given below.  The numbers may have changed slightly, but the gist of the analysis does not change as a result.