Tung Chee-hwa's agreement to officiate at a Labour Day reception hosted last night by the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), throws up several interesting questions. Does it, as Democrats claim, give an unfair advantage to the FTU's sister group, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), to have the chief executive pressing the flesh? Or is it the kiss of death for DAB candidates contesting next month's elections? Democratic Party candidates appear to be furious. Only weeks ago Mr Tung halted their regular meetings in the interests of maintaining neutrality in the election run-up. Noting that some FTU leaders, including Tam Yiu-chung and Chan Yuen-han, will contest next month's polls for the DAB, the Democrats accused Mr Tung of double standards. They argue that Mr Tung's attendance at the FTU reception gives the impression he endorses the candidates present at the function, hence indirectly helping the DAB candidates canvass for votes. However, given the poor popularity ratings accorded Mr Tung and his administration on a number of livelihood issues in the past few months, it is doubtful whether such a perceived link is an advantage for the left-wing party. For the DAB, the association with Mr Tung can be an asset only if the party can succeed in pushing the executive to meet most, if not all, their demands and wishes. But this has not happened. And on the most pressing issues facing Hong Kong now, such as the deteriorating unemployment situation, the Government's lack of a credible solution can only leave the public with the impression that the DAB's bargaining power with the executive is no more than that of any group not seen to enjoy the same close relationship with Mr Tung. Worse still, people tend to remember, or they are reminded by the DAB's election rivals, that on some controversial proposals put forward by the SAR administration, such as labour-related and human rights ordinances, provisional legislators from the DAB have voted in support of the administration. Is this helping the DAB or is it undermining the party's ability to firm up its grassroots support? DAB leaders should know the answer. Voters may tend to believe that since the handover the DAB would have been in a more advantageous position than other political parties. Given its pro-Beijing background, it might seem likely that the administration would see the DAB as a natural ally. But it does not. In fact, the party has found it more difficult than other groups to champion its cause and to be accountable to its supporters. The party faces an awkward dilemma. It cannot be a party in power because, constitutionally, this is impossible. Nor can it provide opposition, as it did in the colonial era, because, with Hong Kong under Chinese rule, it is expected to support the SAR administration as much as possible. So how is the DAB to position itself to the public? To remain competitive in the political arena, DAB leaders have to address this fundamental question. The party's confused identity has already given DAB's rivals ammunition to attack it in debate. The Democratic Party's latest complaint against Mr Tung is just one example of how the close links between Mr Tung and the DAB can easily be turned into a disadvantage for the left-wing party. The extent to which the DAB's identity will affect the party's performance in the forthcoming election remains to be seen. But it is certain that failing to more clearly focus its direction will leave the DAB facing an even more difficult time in the new legislature.