Some drama but doubt a missing ingredient
To a casual observer who was at the AsiaWorld-Expo centre yesterday morning, it could almost have been a real election.
Hordes of reporters jostled to interview the electors who had come to choose Hong Kong's new leader, electoral staff busied themselves to ensure the poll went smoothly and protesters were kept at arm's length.
And when the votes were counted, thunderous applause erupted for a teary-eyed victor who bowed three times to the audience, while the loser - who initially appeared stony-faced - tried to put on a brave face when the number of votes for him seemed to fall short of his expectations.
There was even some drama when legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, who was allowed into the venue as a member of the Election Committee, mounted a protest after the victory of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was announced.
Dressed in a skeleton suit, pig mask and bow tie adorned with little pigs, he chanted slogans denouncing the 'small-circle election' before being ejected amid loud boos.
Yet for all the cheers, boos and talk of how historic the election was, the single most fundamental factor was missing: an element of doubt.
Even before the vote, everyone knew that the incumbent chief executive's victory was predetermined from the beginning.
This was well captured by Peter Lee Ka-kit, the son of Henderson Land boss Lee Shau-kee, who said after casting his ballot: 'The result is known already, [Donald] wins!'
Appearing aware of his slip of the tongue, he added when asked to elaborate: 'I mean it's our guess.'
Casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun was even more forthright: 'Donald is sure to win. It's just as easy as eating vegetables.'
In the public area, the fact that only the 795 Election Committee members were entitled to vote did not seem to have quelled interest in the counting process.
The rowdiest support for Mr Tsang came from an unexpected quarter: about 100 right-of-abode protesters who demonstrated outside the exhibition centre before entering the hall. Hui Mei-lai, 51, who led the chanting for Mr Tsang, said they still believed the incumbent was the man for the job, although he had not been able to meet their demands.
Supporters of Mr Tsang were also prominent in a group of about 80 secondary school students from STFA Lee Shau Kee College.
In the far corner of the public gallery was a modest camp made up of Civic Party members supporting Mr Leong.
When the triumphant chief executive-designate waved to the audience amid a loud chant of 'Elected! Elected!' from his supporters, a spontaneous chant of 'Universal Suffrage! Universal Suffrage!' by pan-democratic Election Committee members and supporters of Mr Tsang echoed around the hall.