25 Nov 2019

Hong Kong elections: Record numbers vote in polls

5:25 am on 25 November 2019

Voters have turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots in Hong Kong's district council elections.

People queue to cast their vote during the district council elections in Tseung Kwan O district in Hong Kong.

People queue to cast their vote during the district council elections in Tseung Kwan O district in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Nearly 2.9 million people had voted an hour before polls shut, a 69 percent turnout. Just 1.47 million voted at the last such poll.

The election is seen as a test of support for embattled chief executive Carrie Lam.

Pro-democracy protest groups hope the vote will send a message to the Chinese government after five months of unrest and anti-government protests.

In the run-up to the election, pro-democracy protest groups had urged people not to cause disruption. No trouble has been reported so far.

Long queues formed on Sunday amid fears polls might be closed by authorities if violence disrupted the election.

A record 4.1 million people had registered to vote, or more than half the population of 7.4 million.

Pro-democracy campaigners hope they will be able to increase their representation on Hong Kong's district council, which traditionally has some influence in choosing the city's chief executive.

Pro-Beijing candidates are urging voters to support them in order to express frustration at the upheaval caused by continuous clashes between protesters and police.

Counting of ballots has now begun.

By 21:30 local time almost 2.9 million people had voted - or more than 69 percent of all registered voters.

In total, 1.467 million people voted in the last poll in 2015, when 3.1 million people were registered to vote.

More than 1000 candidates are running for 452 district council seats which, for the first time, are all being contested. A further 27 seats are allocated to representatives of rural districts.

Currently, pro-Beijing parties hold the majority of these seats. Counting will start immediately after polls close at 22:30, and results are expected to start coming in before midnight.

Police were seen outside some polling stations and on the streets but correspondents said they kept a low profile.

"Facing the extremely challenging situation, I'm pleased to say... we have a relatively calm and peaceful environment for [the] election today," Carrie Lam said after voting.


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