Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's popularity would have to improve to justify his re-election, a political analyst said last night. Professor Lau Siu-kai, associate director of the Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, was speaking following a government poll which showed a sharp drop in public confidence in the administration despite a recovering economy. Professor Lau said: 'He got public support in the last election in 1996. If there is no improvement in his popularity by the time he is re-elected, people will challenge the concept of 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong'.' Mr Tung won by a large majority of the 400 votes in the 1996 election. Opinion polls showed most people preferred him to the other contenders. The next election is in 2002. Mr Tung has not said he will stand. Professor Lau said Beijing would have to think about what could be done before 2002 to improve Mr Tung's popularity. 'A level of more than 50 per cent is essential,' he said. Professor Lau said he did not think Mr Tung would have a problem getting re-elected by the 800-member Election Committee, 'but I believe it won't be a landslide'. A bi-monthly survey by the Home Affairs Bureau released on Monday showed only a quarter of respondents expected the SAR to do better next year, a drop of 15 percentage points, while the number of people who thought Hong Kong would get worse went from eight to 16 per cent. 'The Government . . . always thinks its unpopularity is due to the unprecedented economic difficulties, but now the economy is recovering but its popularity is still low. What does that mean? It means the people don't like the Government,' Professor Lau said.