Public should still have a part to play

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2011, 12:00am


The outcome of the ballot to choose the 1,200 voters in the chief executive election has given an early indication of who is best placed to become our city's next leader. Leung Chun-ying and his supporters suffered a setback, even though he is currently ahead in the opinion polls. Henry Tang Ying-yen, meanwhile, seen by some as Beijing's preferred choice, enjoys stronger support from those winning seats on the Election Committee which will make the choice. The results of the ballot, in which only a small proportion of Hong Kong people are entitled to vote, shows how the views of those who have this privilege can differ from the wider community.

Leung has been a favourite of Beijing since the 1980s, but that does not give his camp a clear edge in many sectors which are dominated by powerful commercial interests. He came in last for the main seats in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference sector. Those who have already declared support for him still fall short of 150, the minimum nominations required to stand - although there are hundreds of Election Committee members who are yet to declare their position. Tang's supporters, meanwhile, enjoyed a comfortable victory in some of the key sectors. Those expected to vote for him are estimated to have already reached at least 200, giving him a comfortable lead at this stage.

Clearly Leung has much work to do if he is to win more support from the Election Committee members. And Tang must secure greater support from the public. Whoever becomes the next chief executive should have the backing not only from the Election Committee, but also the community. Whether or not the election for the chief executive in March will involve the first direct competition within the pro-establishment camp is yet to be seen. Whatever happens, though, it is encouraging that the democrats have a good chance of fielding a candidate. With about 205 allies sitting on the Election Committee, the pan-democrats are optimistic about their chances of securing enough nominations for one of their candidates to stand. This will broaden the field and make the election more interesting, even though the democrat candidate will have no hope of winning. It would, hopefully, encourage all candidates to face the public during the campaign.

Ultimately, it is the Election Committee - not the general public - which decides Hong Kong's next leader. And most of its members tend to vote according to the perceived - or actual - preference of Beijing. In the coming weeks, candidates will be lobbying these 1,200 people for their votes. Members should consider the candidate's experience, leadership credentials, campaign platform and, especially, public opinion. This is the best way to prepare for universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive in 2017.