Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's two-week-old administration is struggling because it cannot rely on the support of pro-establishment parties, who are worried about their own fortunes ahead of September's legislative election, a new Executive Council member says.
Cheung Chi-kong, chief executive of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute, said it was natural for parties preparing for a fierce election battle to try to gain capital from controversies surrounding the government and keep their distance from the scandal-hit administration.
Lawmakers from the normally government-friendly parties, including the Democratic Alliances for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Liberal Party have called for Leung to explain the discovery of illegal structures at his homes and the arrest of former development chief Mak Chai-kwong.
'It is understandable that pro-government groups put their own interests above all in the run-up to the election. The government can hardly expect them to come to its rescue at all costs,' the new Exco member said. 'A day is a long time in politics. Since he declared his candidacy for chief executive in September, the ups and downs in Leung's popularity sound like a roller coaster.'
The chief executive enjoyed a substantial lead in public polling over his chief rival Henry Tang Ying-yen when he was chosen by the Election Committee on March 25, but controversy surrounding illegal structures at his home on the Peak have hit Leung hard - not least because a similar row did much damage to Tang.
'He should explain the matter to the public in a humble manner,' Cheung said.
The resignation and arrest of development minister Mak on Thursday, amid claims he and another civil servant misused housing allowances by renting flats from each other, has also hit confidence in Leung's administration.
But Cheung, seen as a key adviser to Leung after the two worked together at the research institute, said the situation would begin to improve after the Legislative Council poll in September. 'The new government should be able to return to a normal track after the conclusion of the election,' he said. 'All parties, including the pan-democrats, have to go back to real business.'
He added that the new government should not worry too much about short-term fluctuations in its popularity 'otherwise, you would lose your direction.'
Cheung said Leung should focus on livelihood issues, such as housing, the ageing population and poverty.
Leung should detail some of his promised social benefits for elderly people, including a special old-age allowance, before his maiden policy address in October, Cheung said.
Another new Exco member, lawmaker and DAB vice-chairman Starry Lee Wai-king, also called on Leung to roll out the special old-age allowance for poorer people, as well as improvements to the transport subsidy scheme and a relaxation in the age limit for senior citizen travel cards.