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Hong Kong Elections 2019: Voters Turn Out in Record Numbers for District Council Polls

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Hong Kong voters have turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots in the district council elections.

By lunchtime, the number of voters had already surpassed the final total in the 2015 elections.

The election is seen as a test of support for Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

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

On November 24, long queues formed amid fears polls might be closed by authorities if violence disrupted the election.

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.

A record 4.1 million people have registered to vote – more than half the population of 7.4 million.

More than 400 councilors are due to be elected to Hong Kong’s district council.

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Pro-democracy campaigners hope they will be able to increase their representation on the 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.

Polls opened at 07:30 local time on November 24.

According to government figures, by 16.30 more than 2.1 million people had voted (52.14% of all registered voters) compared to 754,705 (24.18%) within the same timescale in the last such elections in 2015.

In total, 1.467 million people voted in the last poll. Only 3.1 million people were registered to vote in that election.

More than 1,000 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.

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

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said after voting: “Facing the extremely challenging situation, I am pleased to say… we have a relatively calm and peaceful environment for (the) election today.”

Counting will start immediately after polls close at 22:30. Results are expected to start coming in before midnight.