Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa was careful with his words last week when answering questions on the electoral methods for the first legislature. He had yet to form a view on the choice between multiple-seat, single-vote and proportional representation systems, he said. Nor had he made firm a decision on whether a seat should be given to Chinese-funded enterprises. He is adamant the executive-led system be upheld when drawing up the electoral plans for the 60-seat legislature. Asked what would happen if the future legislature could not keep the executive in check, Mr Tung said the present provisional legislature already had strong checks and balances. One can only assume he is referring to the way the Chief Executive-designate's Office has been 'accountable' to the legislature. His top aides, such as Elsie Leung Oi-sie and Michael Suen Ming-yeung, have travelled across the border to table and explain bills to the interim body. As the present administration has done, Mr Tung's office has given written replies to questions filed by the legislators-in-waiting over the 1997-98 Budget. The future government has made concessions on matters such as reducing the penalty for desecrating the SAR flag. However, the more fundamental question of the future relationship between the executive and the legislative organs goes far beyond business-like working links. In spite of a consensus the future government should remain 'executive-led', there is growing awareness of the importance of an elected legislature. A legislative assembly returned through fair and open elections will ensure the voices of the community will be heard. Policy decisions by the executive authorities with support from the legislature stand a better chance of community approval. This will boost the authority of both and boost public confidence. It is vital the executive authorities are made accountable to the legislature. More importantly, the legislature must be elected in a 'credible and authoritative' manner as emphasised by Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang recently. She argued the future administration's credibility and authority would be weakened if the future legislature had none of its own. This does not merely hinge on whether it has performed its duties, but on how different segments in the community are represented. A set of electoral methods heavily tilted in favour of one sector would fundamentally undermin e the credibility and authority of the legislature. As head of the civil service, the Chief Secretary may have qualms about the spread of democracy when she and her colleagues are baffled, embarrassed and humiliated by legislators. But senior officials privately recognise the importance of the checks and balances which the legislature provides. An 'executive-led system' with an efficient civil service does not necessarily conflict with a strong, trustworthy and widely represented legislature. The future Executive Council appointed by Mr Tung is largely composed of members of the business elite. Some may favour an electoral system through which business and pro-business people will be able to command a majority so decisions made by the 'executive-led' government can be enforced unchallenged. The worst scenario will be that the executive's powers and decisions will go unchecked and the legislature will merely be a rubberstamp. With fair and credible electoral methods, the legislators so elected will have to be accountable to their constituents and speak in their interest when exercising checks and balances on the administration. Mr Tung's beliefs often feature the theme of balance. When talking of the need to uphold an 'executive-led' system, he should give equal emphasis to a fairly elected and widely represented legislature that can offer real checks and balances on the executive authorities.