No need to pick up the papers today. The news was already called months ago. As expected, Donald Tsang was re-elected Chief Executive of Hong Kong, the territory’s highest political office. The only drama Sunday was whether Tsang’s final vote count would be less than the 641 nominations he received last month. It wasn’t. In the final tally he received 649 votes. Democratic opposition candidate Alan Leong got 123, down from his earlier 132 nominations. It’s hard to read too much into those changes, except that Tsang didn’t suffer any embarrassing deterioration of support. Tycoon mogul Stanley Ho probably helped with that. He warned that although it was a secret ballot, the identity of anyone casting a blank would eventually be known.
In his victory speech, Tsang struck a conciliatory tone. It might seem a bit odd, as the campaign was hardly bruising and he easily won more than 80% of the vote. But I think that his comments highlight how in Hong Kong’s hamstrung political system, such a margin doesn’t equal an overwhelming mandate. If Tsang hopes to keep his election promises, he’ll have to go beyond his political allies in government, who often have very divergent interests, and rely on his high support from the public at large. As he noted, “I cannot undertake this mission alone. This is a partnership, a partnership project I have with the people of Hong Kong.”