For those fighting for "real" democracy, there are two stark choices. You either do it by brandishing public nomination. Or you fight to make the membership of the future nominating committee (NC) as democratically representative as possible.
We have wasted precious time and resources over public nomination. It's a dead end. Scholarism and the Federation of Students say it's that or nothing. Unfortunately, even moderate pan-democrats are pressured to support it. The much-weakened Democratic Party now plans to withdraw from the Alliance for True Democracy, whose version of public nomination won the most votes in Occupy Central's poll.
But beyond the noise and July 1 protests, think about what fighting for public nomination really means as a legislative process. As a proposal, it will never make it to Legco; and Beijing is certain to veto it in the almost impossible event that two-thirds of Legco approves it. So fighting for it means no reform and no universal suffrage. Even the most hardline Beijing stooges have a better offer.
Reforming the nominating committee remains the only viable route and it can accord with the pan-dems' aspirations. Let's start with the despised functional constituencies (FCs). These rotten boroughs exist not only in the legislature, but also in the election committee for the chief executive. Many of the subsectors within three of the committee's four sectors - businesses; professions; and labour, social services and religion - replicate FCs in Legco. Even the fourth, political sector, gives the Heung Yee Kuk representation, as Legco does.
The imperative is to avoid making the NC into another election committee. By reforming sector memberships, the NC can become a credible democratic institution. That same reform package can be used to redraw the distribution of FCs in the 2016 Legco election as a road map to phasing them out in the 2020 Legco election or thereafter. This is in line with the Basic Law and strictures from National People Congress' standing committee. So reforms of the 2016 and 2020 Legco elections and 2017 chief executive election are inextricably linked.
A democratically legitimate NC will also deal with the problem of pre-screening of chief executive candidates.