Legco chief out but not down
While Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing has decided against standing for chief executive he has vowed to join the fray in a run-off if no candidate wins at least half the Election Committee votes on March 25.
Tsang, the former chairman of what was then the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, said he would continue to prepare his election platform and maintain contact with supporters in various sectors, some of whom are members of the Election Committee.
Tsang said he had not had enough time to prepare his platform, canvass the public for support and discuss with fellow members of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's the possible impact on his party should he be elected.
Asked if he was 'almost certain to run' for a run-off in May should no candidate win at least half the votes, he said: 'I am not campaigning for a scenario in which no one gets elected. But if it happens, I will take things as they come.'
Pressed on whether his expression of interest in standing for a run-off was to provide Beijing with another candidate in case the race turned ugly, he laughed and said: 'I don't believe Beijing will need me to help pave an alternative way out.'
Tsang, 64, who 10 days ago said he might contest the election amid the growing scandal over illegal structures at Henry Tang Ying-yen's home in Kowloon Tong, said no one representing Beijing had dissuaded him to run or contacted him.
He said he had dropped the idea for now merely because of 'time constraints'.
According to political pundit Johnny Lau Yui-siu, whether a new chief executive is elected next month depends on how the scandals over Tang and his chief rival Leung Chun-ying unfold, and on the bargaining between Beijing and candidates' supporters - the Hong Kong-based tycoons in particular.
If no one gets more than half of the votes in the morning of March 25, a second round of voting between the top two candidates will be held that afternoon. In the improbable situation that neither gains at least half the votes in the second round, a new nomination period will be set and a run-off held on May 6.
The Liberal Party has said it will put in blank ballots if Tang runs while public disapproval of him doing so is above 50 per cent.
One post is vacant on the 1,200-strong Election Committee, and five other electors hold two places, but only have a vote each, resulting in an effective membership of 1,194 votes.
New People's Party chairwoman and legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee indicated she would not give up her attempts to win the required 150 nominations by tomorrow, when nominations close, because 340 Election Committee members have yet to nominate a candidate.
DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said about half of its 147 members on the Election Committee had yet to nominate someone, saying Ip could directly seek their support.
Meanwhile, an opinion poll co-sponsored by four local media agencies, including the South China Morning Post, found that Leung continued to be the most popular choice.
Of the 500 respondents polled by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme over the weekend, 33.8 per cent opted for Leung as the next chief executive, up 2.6 percentage points from the last poll.
Ip came second, with 27.4 per cent of respondents choosing her, a drop of 0.3 percentage points. It found 13.9 per cent chose Tsang, followed by Tang (12 per cent) and Albert Ho Chun-yan (4.6 per cent).