CY digs himself an even deeper hole

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 2:50am

With such an unconvincing performance, he doesn't need critics. The chief executive's appearance in the legislature on Monday was supposed to lay to rest the furore over illegal structures at his homes. In the event, Leung Chun-ying just dug a deeper hole for himself.

It was a no-brainer: act contrite, apologise profusely and prostrate yourself. But, despite five full apologies and 10 admissions of negligence, there were still the obfuscations, conditional qualifications and denials. People didn't want explanations; they wanted him to run the gauntlet and be publicly humiliated. He might have obliged, but in the end, he failed to deliver.

"I did not say I had no illegal structures" was the biggest unforced error of the session. That and other dubious statements he made just gave his enemies more ammunition with which to drag out the controversy.

It does not look like there are enough votes in Legco to pass the no-confidence censure today but the numbers will be close enough to give Leung a big black eye. There will be even less support in the chamber for a formal investigation to impeach him. The bar for impeachment is so high in our system as to make it impossible to unseat him by this route.

But that is also our system's own Achilles' heel. If impeachment were a real possibility, at least there would be an end in sight, like in the case of Bill Clinton. You survive it or you are out. Either way, that would be the end of the matter. In our system, Leung's enemies across the political spectrum can't get rid of him, but they can turn the furore into an indefinite, open-ended melodrama that drags on and on, thereby undermining governance and distracting the Leung administration from doing anything useful.

Granted, you can't really compare our system with the US, which is very different. But there are similarities in both cases. Few neutral and fair-minded people thought Clinton deserved to be impeached for lying about a sex act he received in the Oval Office. It would be hard to argue Leung's illegal structures reach the level of "a serious breach of the law or dereliction of duty" as required by the Basic Law to launch impeachment procedures.

But hey, it's politics! And no one plays fair.