A few months ago Hong Kong was waiting for an election campaign. Now it has one, and it’s surprisingly lively. Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s re-election is a foregone conclusion, after all. So why the debates, open-top bus rides, and flesh pressing with people who won’t have a say on March 25?
While most people in Hong Kong can’t vote in this election, their opinion matters. Challenger Alan Leong knows the process is fixed against him, and his best hope is to appeal to the citizens at large. Likewise, Tsang knows that even a hapless politician like his predecessor Tung Chee-hwa can win the vote, which is made by an electoral college that is largely pro-Beijing. Tsang’s dominance of that group won’t have much resonance, and if he wants to get anything done in his next term he’ll need a bigger mandate. In a recent interview with TIME he made clear that he wants to win the hearts of all Hong Kongers.
The irony is that the Leong is considered the pro-democracy candidate. But given that polls show Tsang enjoys a lead of around 40 points in polls, the incumbent is the one who would most benefit from having all of Hong Kong elect the Chief Executive.