Doubts electorate will widen in 2007
Democrat's result may deter Beijing, says James Tien
The Democratic Party leader's success in securing nomination to run for chief executive from 50 of the 800 Election Committee members may have so shaken Beijing's confidence that it could be reconsidering expansion of the electorate in 2007, says the Liberals' leader.
'I am worried about the constitutional reform. There are doubts whether we can move ahead progressively as planned,' James Tien Pei-chun told journalists. He said he had doubts the chief executive election would open up to a wider electorate in 2007.
In securing nomination from 50 electors, Lee Wing-tat, the Democrats' leader, was halfway to reaching the threshold of 100 nominations required to force a contest with Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Mr Tien stopped short of saying Beijing would tighten its grip on the electoral process.
But he said there could be concerns about the outcome of a chief executive race if the committee membership were doubled to 1,600.
'It's true that Donald [Tsang] could get support from over 700 people this time. But do you think he could still secure 1,400 when the committee is widened to 1,600?' he asked.
By securing backing from more than 700 committee members, Mr Tsang ensured that he would be the only eligible candidate.
Mr Tien said the Liberals still supported broadening the committee to 1,600. But he opposed capping the number of nominations a candidate could collect in future, despite criticism of Mr Tsang's strategy of eliminating any rivals at the initial stage.
'It's a free society. You can't cap the number because someone managed to scoop many nominations.
'Even if you have the cap, that doesn't mean the other hopefuls can get the nominations they require to stand,' he said.
Mr Tien, who once considered running against Mr Tsang, said that he did not know if he would put himself forward in the 2007 chief executive race.
He said the decision would depend on whether Mr Tsang did a good job over the next two years and whether acting Chief Executive Henry Tang Ying-yen would run.
Mr Tien also poured cold water on the proposal to strengthen the ministerial system by appointing people with party backgrounds to work as assistants to ministers.
'Political parties would have reservations if these assistants who are affiliated with rival parties come to lobby them,' he said.