Tung Chee-hwa is assured of a second term as chief executive, having secured the support of enough Election Committee members to prevent anyone running against him. Sources close to Mr Tung's campaign office said last night that he had slightly more than 700 of the committee's 800 members listed on his nomination form, which he plans to submit at noon today. Since each committee member can only nominate one candidate - and to seek election a candidate must list 100 members who support their candidacy - this effectively means that Mr Tung can claim victory. The source said that even more committee members, anxious to be seen to be backing Mr Tung, could sign on at the last minute. The Election Committee was to have voted in a secret ballot on the next chief executive on March 24. However, because Mr Tung will not have an opponent, no vote is required and he can be declared the winner unopposed at 5pm on February 28, when the two-week nomination period for the SAR's top post closes. An official spokesman for Mr Tung's election office refused to divulge how many nominators Mr Tung had. But the spokesman for the first time confirmed that Mr Tung had invited all Election Committee members except those in the anti-Tung Coalition Against Second Term to act as his nominators. 'As they [coalition members] have openly stated that they are against Mr Tung serving Hong Kong for a second term, Mr Tung accordingly did not ask them to be his nominators,' the spokesman said. Among the coalition members are 17 legislators - 12 from the Democratic Party, Emily Lau Wai-hing and Cyd Ho Sau-lan from the Frontier, and unionist lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan, Lau Chin-shek and Leung Yiu-chung. Martin Lee Chu-ming, Democratic Party chairman, said: 'The fact that Mr Tung got more than 700 nominators is nothing for him to be proud of. It only reflects how undemocratic the system is.' Branding the electoral process a 'sham', Mr Lee said: 'Is it necessary for him to go that far [in securing so many nominators]? It simply creates a false image that he got more support than last time. 'Should Election Committee members have cast their votes [in a secret ballot] this time, his results would certainly have been worse than last time.' In 1996, Mr Tung claimed victory with 320 votes from the 400-member Selection Committee, the body replaced by the Election Committee. Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said: 'It didn't matter that Mr Tung did not request us to be his nominators. The biggest problem is the absence of any independent stance in the whole 'election'.' Both Martin Lee and Lee Cheuk-yan said that since the names of all nominators would be made public, committee members would feel obliged to support Mr Tung to demonstrate their allegiance to Beijing, which backs his re-election. Emily Lau said: 'The biggest problem is not that he did not ask us to be his nominators. That's his freedom. The whole thing has been fixed. That's not a secret. We don't feel that it's an election at all.' Professor Lau Siu-kai, associate director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at Chinese University, said Mr Tung could not have expected so many nominators three months ago, when his approval rating was only 21.2 per cent, according to a poll conducted by the institute. He said Mr Tung may have secured several dozen extra supporters following improved approval ratings after he announced his re-election bid in December.