KAM Man Fung: The Catch-all Party: A Good Solution for Hong Kong?

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The article “The Vanished Catch-all Party” in Ming Pao by Dr. Derek YUEN listed four types of political parties and analysed the attributes of various political parties in Hong Kong. He stated that the establishment of a “Catch-all Party” is essential to relieve social conflicts and to heal the wounds of society. Thus, the focus of political development in Hong Kong is establishing a “Catch-all Party”, rather than middle ground Parties.

 

The Catch-all Party is a new concept worth exploring and trying, though its impact on resolving social rifts has yet to be proven. This article will assess whether the current situation is conducive to establishing a Catch-all Party in Hong Kong. Three barriers will be discussed below: the electoral system, social atmosphere, and the political situation.

 

Let me first define the term “Catch-all Party”. The article “The Vanished Catch-all Party” stated that a Catch-all Party should have trans-class appeal as its platform, quoting the Republican Party and Democratic Party of the US as examples. The term “Catch-all” designates trans-class inclusion rather than cross-ideological and is different from middle ground.

 

Political parties are organizations seeking seats in parliaments, and no repositioned political parties should work against this principle. In Hong Kong’s District Council election, candidates’ personal abilities and performance in the community tend to be more influential than their political affiliation, and their affiliations are only impactful on Legislative Council (LegCo) elections. The current proportional representation electoral system in the LegCo benefits small scale political parties; therefore, more and more new parties have emerged after the reunification. Even big political parties formed small teams to run the election in the same constituency. With limited resources, smaller parties tend to focus on developing a certain class of voters so they can make good use of resources to secure their seats in the Council. Under the proportional representation system in the LegCo, political parties may not be willing to spend more resources to “catch” other new votes unless they can be assured their base votes are very stable.

 

The second barrier is the tensions and conflicts of our society, which need no explanation. This divide is not only caused by ideological opposition of the left and right spectrum, and the attitude towards Mainland China, but also cross-generational and cross-class opposition. The term “Real Estate Hegemony”, proposed some years ago, precisely describes the dissatisfaction of the general public with property developers. The surge in housing prices caused property owners and tenants to have different views on the government’s property market policies. These are just some examples. It will not be easy to establish a Catch-all Party in Hong Kong, or to find a middle ground to balance the interests of different classes on various issues. It is more likely to become a vague suggestion that will not be accepted by all classes.

 

Finally, the political reality camps aim to maximize their seats in councils; hence, pan-democracy and pro-establishment camps will have a tacit agreement to secure their own source of votes and thus barely be able to strike a balance. If a party revises its strategy dramatically and aims to catch votes from different classes, it will certainly tip the balance and arouse discontent within the same camp. Under the current political situation, the newly formed political parties have already caused uneasiness among the political camps, not to mention the attenuated source of votes caused by the repositioned Catch-all party.

 

The three barriers listed above and internal unity are the hurdles against repositioning any political party. It is not easy to establish a Catch-all Party under the current electoral system, social atmosphere, and political situation. I am not trying to oppose such an idea since it may be a solution worth trying under the current social division. I would like to see if there are ambitious political parties that will take a brave step to test the feasibility of this approach in Hong Kong.

 

From Henry Ho & Gordon Lam (ed.) A Debate of Two Systems, p.58

Original from:Forum page, Ming Pao.