Regina Ip is first pick of second-string choices
Peter So, Colleen Lee and Gary Cheung
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is the most popular alternative choice from the pro-establishment camp to join the chief executive race, according to the latest South China Morning Post-University of Hong Kong poll.
The poll - conducted on Monday and Tuesday - came as the New People's Party chairwoman jumped back into a race she had ruled herself out of last year.
She said yesterday that she had made progress clinching the 150 nominations needed to run, but declined to say how many nominations she had.
Ip pulled out of the race in December after members of the 1,200-strong committee that will pick the new chief executive on March 25 were elected. She said at the time that she would have as few as 20 to 25 certain votes.
Ip changed her mind about not running on Monday, saying the contest between former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and former Executive Committee convenor Leung Chun-ying had become a 'shameful farce'.
Tang has dominated the headlines because of an illegal basement found under his family's house in Kowloon Tong, while Leung has been accused of failing to declare business ties with a 2001 design competition contestant while he served on the panel of judges.
But a source close to Beijing said the central government still wanted Tang and Leung to compete for the top job despite the recent scandal.
'Who wins in the election will be decided by the Election Committee members,' the source said. 'Tang's submission of his nomination form on Monday signalled that [Legco president] Tsang [Yok-sing] and other candidates should not enter the race.'
In the latest poll, respondents were asked to name their top three choices 'if there is more than one candidate from the pro-establishment camp running in the chief executive race'.
Of the 506 people interviewed, 39.2 per cent said Ip would be their favourite - while 32 per cent chose Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, who declined to join the race late last year.
Tsang Yok-sing, the former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, who said last week that he was considering standing for election, came last with 18.7 per cent. He said on Tuesday that the process of securing enough nominations was slow.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said yesterday that the party would support Tsang if he ran, but that he would have to look beyond the faction for nominations.
'I believe about 50 [of the DAB's 147 election committee members] have given their nominations [to either Tang or Leung]. We still have around 100 votes left,' Tam said.
'We decided on February 13 to give most members a free choice in nominating their preferred candidate. But [Legco] president Tsang waited until days later to announce [his intention to run],' Tam said.
The latest poll results contrasted with a previous survey late last week in which Fan was the front runner, with 24.1 per cent support, followed by Ip at 21.1 per cent and Tsang last at 5.9 per cent.
But candidates listed in that prior survey included former Monetary Authority chief Joseph Yam Chi-kwong and Development Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who received 16.5 per cent and 10.9 per cent support respectively.