Ip drops out of race for HK's top post
Former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee dropped out of the race to be the next chief executive after she failed to secure the minimum 150 nominations required.
Her elimination returned the contest to its former three-horse scenario, in which pan-democrat candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan faces the two front runners - former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and former Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying.
Although the key players remain unchanged, the election - which is not democratic - has really come to life over the past month with headline-dominating scandals surrounding the two pro-establishment candidates, Leung and Tang.
The excitement looks set to continue all the way until the crucial vote by the 1,200-strong Election Committee on March 25, where there are 1,194 possible votes. One seat is vacant and five other members hold two seats but only get one vote each.
Legco has formed a select committee to probe Leung's alleged conflict-of-interest in the West Kowloon design contest in 2001 and in two weeks it will also discuss the illegal structures at Tang's Kowloon Tong house.
Veteran Beijing loyalist Ng Hon-mun believed Beijing would soon step in to prevent things from getting out of control and ensure the March 25 voting would be effective.
'Either Tang or Leung would have to win on March 25, as Beijing would not want to see the 200 votes controlled by the pan-democrats to become the kingmaker,' said Ng, a former deputy of the National People's Congress. 'Beijing must retain its control over the election and make sure either of the candidates can get at least 601 votes.'
All three candidates submitted additional nominations yesterday, the last day of the endorsement period.
Both Tang and Leung secured another 13 endorsements each. But the nomination of a tycoon supporter for Tang - Wheelock and Wharf Holdings chairman Peter Woo Kwong-ching - was ruled invalid. It brings the final number of nominations for Tang and Leung to 390 and 305 respectively, with 188 for Ho.
Despite the scandals, Tang has managed to add Wharf's deputy chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, real estate sector representative Leung Chin-kin and Keith Kerr to his list of supporters.
Leung won the support of veteran cyclist and Hong Kong Olympic hopeful Wong Kam-po, who is targeting his fifth Games in London, and seven more tickets from the labour subsector.
Ho, whose participation in the race is largely symbolic because of the nature of the small-circle election, won three additional nominations, from the legal sector and one each from the accounting and education sectors.
Ip, who is popular in the public polls, came far short of the 150 required nominations. She refused to disclose exactly how many endorsements she had received, only saying it was 'close but not close enough'.
Her undoing was largely due to the fact that she failed to get any ticket from the powerful pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Ip has her own political party - the New People's Party - and is seen by the DAB as a rival. She only obtained one ticket from another powerful leftist group, the Federation of Trade Unions.
'I understand why the major political parties from the pro-establishment camp couldn't nominate me because they are afraid of conveying a certain kind of political message,' she said. 'I don't consider myself to have failed ... I think I am actually a winner. I managed to come forward a long way.'
She said she would try again when the next opportunity presented itself.
The other two contenders failing to secure enough nominations were the relatively unknown hopefuls Yu Wing-yin and Wu Sai-chuen.