In the clearest sign that Beijing wants Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to serve a second term, President Jiang Zemin yesterday said he wished Mr Tung would be successfully re-elected and believed he would be. The President's remark demonstrated once again that the central Government was comfortable about having elections in the SAR, provided it was sure who the winner would be. Five years ago, Mr Jiang dropped similar hints about whom he wanted to be the chief executive by going out of his way to seek out Mr Tung in a group and shake hands with him. But even though Mr Tung's re-election is a foregone conclusion, the show has to go on. For the majority of the population who do not have a vote and who have expressed views through opinion polls that they do not want him to run again, yesterday's function at the Convention and Exhibition Centre may have appeared farcical. But it had to be staged to demonstrate Mr Tung still has a measure of support and to give the electoral game a veneer of legitimacy. Indeed, there was some truth in what was said by the seven people mobilised to speak in support of Mr Tung. Regardless of whom had been chief executive, said the speakers, nothing could have stopped the financial crisis that hit east Asia in 1997-98 from engulfing Hong Kong. Mr Tung, an honest leader with the highest integrity, had done his best to steer the SAR through difficult times. He made decisive moves to ward off speculators in 1998 who wanted to crush the SAR's financial system. He was far-sighted enough to launch long-overdue reforms in education and to spearhead the SAR's economic integration with the mainland. These recollections were all very well, except that there was no mention of his obvious blunders over housing policy - failing to modify his goal of building 85,000 flats a year quickly enough when economic conditions changed - or his dogged determination to implement mother-tongue education according to a plan that was laid down by the colonial administration but was unpopular with the public. Had the population been allowed to decide who should be the next chief executive, Mr Tung would certainly have chosen to step down. By design, however, the Basic Law decrees that only 800 people will decide who will be the next leader, and he has to stand again, even though his plan was to serve only one term. The challenge ahead for Mr Tung is to assure a sceptical public that he truly listens to public opinion and has the ability to lead the SAR out of the economic doldrums. On this count, Mr Tung yesterday said all the right things, from vowing to fully exploit for Hong Kong the opportunities presented by China's accession to the World Trade Organisation to creating more employment to citing the heart-rending story of single mother Wong Sau-yung, who overcame immense difficulties to raise three children with the help of welfare and despite her multiple illnesses. And Mr Tung delivered it well too. Yesterday's was probably the best speech the Chief Executive, a native of Shanghai, had managed to deliver in Cantonese since he reluctantly became a politician five years ago. Hopefully, his performance yesterday will herald a new achievement of meeting public expectations over the next five years. Mr Tung announced that he would definitely implement a new ministerial system. While he modestly described this reform as a means of re-engineering the government, history is likely to see this as a ground-breaking move with profound constitutional significance. With this change, Mr Tung will have a real cabinet, with his personal appointees in the driving seat to direct civil servants to carry out his agenda. This is his way of developing a more functional government for Hong Kong. But it is hard to see how the reform will necessarily enhance the tense relations between the executive authorities and the legislature, many of whose members are constitutionally confined to playing the role of opposition. Mr Tung will truly leave a lasting legacy if he can exploit the trust of the central Government that he enjoys to bring about concrete moves towards greater democracy in 2007, as is allowed by the Basic Law.