Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 9, issue 3

Ngok Ma and Chi-Keung Choy, "The Impact of Electoral Rule Change on Party Campaign Strategy: Hong Kong as a Case Study," Party Politics, 9 (May 2003), 347-367.

First Paragraph:
While parties and politicians expend substantial amounts of money and energy on campaigning during elections, the limited study of campaign strategies reflects a 'major gap' in electoral studies (Farrell, 1996: 160; Harrop and Miller, 1987: 240). Researchers tend to focus on assessing the effects of campaigns (Ezra and Nelson, 1995; Gelman and King, 1993; Holbrook, 1994, 1996; Shaw and Roberts, 2000). Relatively little effort has been spent on explaining the different patterns of campaigning across different political systems. Although there is a global trend towards 'Americanization' in campaigning (Butler and Ranney, 1992; Plasser, 2000), different polities still demonstrate strikingly different patterns of electioneering. Electioneering involves strategic acts by political actors as a means towards maximizing their chances and gains in the electoral contest, the rules of which are defined by the electoral system of a polity. It follows that different electoral rules, or different structures of the game, will prescribe or proscribe different campaign strategies.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Composition of the Legislative Council, 1991 to 2000
Table 2: Total expenses by all candides, 1995 to 2000
Table 3: Breakdown of campaign expenses of all candidtes, 2000 campaign

Last Paragraph:
The case of Hong Kong shows that voter expectations created by past electoral experiences and institutions can linger, which means that candidates will not make a full swing in campaign strategies as predicted by theory. In Hong Kong, a combination of partial election, parameters that disfavoured large parties and restrictive campaign laws suppressed the impacts of electoral rule change on campaign strategy. The rule structure creates a disincentive to vote for strong runaway lists, inducing SNTV-like campaign behaviour, which in the end reinforces traditional campaigning styles (such as interpersonal networks and constituency services) and creates new phenomena (e.g. induces strategic voting). The campaign strategy of every polity has a complex pattern, i.e. the result of a complex mix of factors: institutional legacy, political culture, campaign laws and other parameters. The electoral formula plays only a limited, but not insignificant, role.