Government misjudgment and a dropping of their guard by pro-establishment lawmakers were to blame for the vetoing of an effort to give priority to scrutiny of the incoming chief executive's government restructuring plan, critics and legislators said.
While 27 of the 54 lawmakers present voted for the government's move to bring forward the debate on the resolution for Leung Chun-ying's proposal, it was still one vote short of the required number.
Six pro-establishment lawmakers were absent from the chamber when the vote was taken at 11.48am, including catering-sector representative Tommy Cheung Yu-yan of the Liberal Party, which supported the revamp.
After the veto, Cheung said he was on the way to Kwun Tong for a meeting with several members of the catering industry when he received a call at about 11.30am from the government asking him to come back and vote.
'The person asked me to come back to vote, but he didn't say there were insufficient lawmakers in the chamber and [the fast-tracking] would be short of one vote. I said that I could not come back until about 12.30pm as I had an engagement with my sector members.'
The veto might have been avoided had the administration secretly asked at least three government-friendly lawmakers to speak at the meeting in a bid to delay the voting until Cheung returned, given that each lawmaker could speak for up to 15 minutes.
The other absentees included accountancy-sector lawmaker Paul Chan Mo-po, a hot tip to become deputy financial secretary, who said he decided to be absent as he believed there could be a possible conflict of interest.
'I was a little bit surprised. I thought it was going to be passed,' said Chan, who was at the Legco complex throughout the day.
Absentees also included finance-sector lawmaker David Li Kwok-po, a nominator of defeated chief executive contender Henry Tang Ying-yen, and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Cheung Hok-ming.
New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who abstained from voting, made clear in the debate she had reservations about the proposed move to put scrutiny of the revamp plan ahead of other measures. On Wednesday, tourism-sector lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun also said he was against the fast-tracking, while financial services-sector lawmaker Chim Pui-chung criticised the government's move. Both voted against it.
'The government erred in counting the votes,' University of Science and Technology political scientist Dixon Sing Ming said.
'It failed to remind the pro-establishment lawmakers that each and every one of their votes was necessary. It was off guard and overconfident.'
Another political pundit, James Sung Lap-kung, said the government deserved most of the blame but added: 'Pro-establishment lawmakers had a responsibility, too ... they should have showed up to vote.'
Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing said all the legislators who were absent, voted against or abstained should be blamed for the failure to get the motion passed, making it unlikely the restructuring would be complete by July 1 when Leung took over.