Moderate proposals on electoral reform are expected to receive lukewarm support at Occupy Central's third "deliberation day" today, held to select the most popular plans to be put to a citywide vote next month.
Instead, radical models that push for public nomination of chief executive hopefuls in 2017 are likely to triumph, given today's event will be dominated by about 2,000 backers of the Occupy democracy drive, scholars say.
The three reform proposals to emerge out of 15 on the table will proceed to a June 20-22 electronic civil referendum, with the final choice receiving Occupy's official endorsement.
Dr Brian Fong Chi-hang, one of 18 academics who suggested a compromise on political reform early last month, lamented yesterday that it would be a miracle if their proposal made the cut.
"We academics have no experience in mobilising supporters the way other parties … do. We do not even know how to start up a street booth [to garner public support]," the Institute of Education political scientist said.
Their plan, aiming to bridge the rift between Beijing and pan-democrats, does not let members of the public name election candidates - an idea repeatedly shot down by mainland officials.
"It is not easy to promote our proposal over the ones that allow public nomination - if you are allowed only one vote, you might want to pick the most ideal proposal," Fong said, though he believed a defeat today would not spell the end of their plan.
The Occupy campaign vows to mobilise more than 10,000 people to block the main streets of Central if the government fails to offer a satisfactory plan for democratic reform.
Advocacy groups are making last-ditch efforts to whip up support for a joint proposal in favour of public nomination, put forward by student-led group Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students.
Their fervour prompted a political scientist to deplore how the deliberation exercise had violated its fundamental spirit. "The radical models that include public nomination are doomed to win [on deliberation day] as the participants are all very dedicated to Occupy Central," Professor Ma Ngok of Chinese University said. "I do not think they form a representative sample size.
"Groups are trying to mobilise supporters to vote for the plans they back - in a way that is almost like an election. Can it still be called a 'deliberation day'?"