High voter turnout in Hong Kong district polls

Hong Kong, Nov 24 : Voters on Sunday turned out in large numbers to the polling booths for the district council election, which is seen as a test of support for Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Long queues of voters were witnessed at polling stations before the voting officially began at 7.30 a.m..

By 4.30 p.m. local time, more than 2.1 million people had voted (52.14 per cent) as compared to 7,54,705 voters (24.18 per cent) within the same timescale during the previous election in 2015, BBC reported, citing data from the Hong Kong electoral authorities.

The 4.13 million people (in a city of about 7.5 million residents) eligible to vote will choose 452 councillors out of the 1,090 contesting candidates from the 18 districts of Hong Kong.

The number of registered voters has increased by one million compared to the 2015 elections; 392,600 of them were added in the last year, coinciding with the protests, and 58 per cent of them are aged between 18-20, Efe news reported.

Although the position of Councillor carries little practical power, Sunday’s elections are seen as a barometer to gauge the political leanings of the city in the wake of the pro-democracy movement that has led to prolonged protests on the streets in recent months, as well as determine the support enjoyed by the pro-mainland Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Alex, 24, who was on his way to vote for a pro-democracy candidate and who has actively participated in the protests that started in June, told EFE that Hongkongers still had the freedom to choose and these elections would be an expression of their preferences.

Alex cast his vote early in the morning in South Horizons, an upper-middle-class district, the same district that Joshua Wong — one of the most visible pro-democratic leaders and the only candidate to have been banned from running in this election — hails from.

“Even if they censor me out from the ballot, lock me out in prison, it will just encourage me to continue to fight for the future with even stronger determination,” Wong told the media before voting.

Chief Executive Lam was also among those to cast her vote early morning in the affluent Middle Levels district, where she hoped that the elections would serve restore normalcy in the city, especially given that the most recent protests were particularly violent.

Lam said that in recent days, they had witnessed the city recovering its peace, and that many citizens had appreciated it, alluding to the relative calm in Hong Kong over the last five days to ensure the elections were not cancelled.

Most people came to vote early following rumours spread on social media, warning that if any altercations took place, voting would be suspended at 10.30 a.m. and only the votes already polled until that moment would be counted.
(IANS)

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