Hong Kong's democrats retain veto power in poll

Former Democratic Party Chairman Albert Ho The Democratic Party of Albert Ho (C) only won four seats

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The pan-democratic camp has won 27 of 70 seats to retain veto power in closely-watched elections to Hong Kong's legislative council.

But the leader of the biggest pro-democracy party has quit over its poorer than expected performance.

Albert Ho stepped down as chairman after his Democratic Party won six seats, down from eight.

Voter turn-out among the 3.5m electorate was over 50%, higher than the previous legislative poll in 2008.

The high turn-out followed protests over plans to introduce mandatory patriotism lessons in schools in Hong Kong. A day before the polls, the plans were scrapped by Chief Executive CY Leung.

Analysis

The pan-democrat opposition parties retained enough seats to veto constitutional changes they don't like. That will send a message to Beijing that Hong Kongers don't want to be pushed around, even if the opposition parties failed to take full advantage of Mr Leung's unpopularity - and U-turn - over his Beijing-backed plans for patriotic education in school.

The pressure will be on Mr Leung and Beijing to deliver on promises to introduce direct universal elections for the post of chief executive, possibly as early as 2017. At the moment the chief executive is elected by an electoral college.

But the opposition parties still look disorganised. Their political ammunition is usually spent trying to shoot down any measure that looks like it will give Beijing more power or influence over Hong Kong, and they have few distinctive policies to set them apart from each other. But that may be changing: the parties that concentrated on grass-roots' issues - such as the prohibitive cost of buying homes - seemed to do well

The election campaign was also dominated by issues such as employment, corruption and the growing number of visitors from mainland China.

'Increasingly impatient'

Results showed pro-democracy groups had retained one-third of the legislative seats, which they need to veto constitutional amendments - including democratic reforms. Beijing says it will allow Hong Kong residents to choose their leader by 2017.

However the democracy camp had been expected to perform better, amid strong anti-China sentiment.

For the first time, 40 of the 70 seats on Hong Kong's governing legislative council were directly elected.

Under the current laws, the rest were chosen by small groups of electors selected along economic and professional lines.

The pan-democrats were not as well-organised as the pro-Beijing parties; they tried to make Hong Kong's complicated electoral system work in their favour, but often the tactics failed, says the BBC's Andrew Wood in Hong Kong.

"We have more votes but less seats. This is a tragic result," Reuters news agency quoted pro-democracy Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong as saying.

Albert Ho said he was stepping down to take responsibility for what he called the party's "serious failure" in the election.

He also said that people in Hong Kong were becoming "increasingly impatient" with the pro-Beijing government.

"I think a lot of voters have decided to choose some people who... play a much more aggressive role in the Legislative Council," he added.

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