A pan-democrat is "unlikely" to win the 2017 chief executive poll despite the introduction of universal suffrage, the camp's standard-bearer in the last election says. Former Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan made the prediction yesterday as he attempted to reassure Beijing that it need not fear a "confrontational" chief executive.
Hongkongers were pragmatic, he said, and more likely to elect a moderate than a radical.
Ho, who finished third behind winner Leung Chun-ying and Henry Tang Ying-yen in last year's poll, decided by a 1,200-strong election committee, said he would continue to campaign for the right of the public to put forward candidates for chief executive in 2017.
Public nomination was dismissed on Friday by Wang Guangya , director of Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, who said it was "definitely rather far away from the Basic Law". The mini-constitution puts the power in the hands of a nominating committee.
The Democrats favour a three-track approach in which the public, political parties and the nominating committee can put forward candidates. He believes such a system can fit into the framework of the Basic Law.
"It doesn't mean it's against [the Basic Law]," Ho said yesterday. "It is still possible to explain, on legal grounds, how to make public nomination part of the process."
He suggested that if a candidate received a certain number of nominations from members of the public, the nominating committee would either rubber-stamp it or ask the candidate to seek the support of at least 4 per cent of committee members before going to the public vote.
The Democrats' proposal has been seen by political observers as a way to win the middle ground, as Beijing loyalists had warned that ideas which sought to bypass the nominating committee were unlikely to win approval from officials.
And Ho declined to say whether the Democrats would support reforms without public nomination, saying it may run a public poll involving electronic voting on such a proposal.
Many pan-democrats fear the nominating committee will keep critics of Beijing out of the poll, especially after central government officials repeatedly insisted that the city's leader must "love the country and love Hong Kong". But Ho does not believe that will be a problem.
"Do pan-democrats have a good chance [in 2017]? Not necessarily. I think many voters will tend to choose someone more moderate," Ho said. "I don't think Hongkongers will pick someone who crosses fire [with Beijing] every day … such a leader wouldn't be popular."
The government is holding a five-month consultation on electoral reform. To change the rules for 2017, it will need Beijing's blessing and a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council, meaning its proposal must win over some pan-democrats.