Tung Chee-hwa yesterday defended the electoral system which has assured him of a second term as chief executive, after securing the support of nearly 90 per cent of the Election Committee. He brushed aside criticism he had been chosen in a 'small-circle election' after submitting nomination papers that bore the names of 706 committee members. Mr Tung said the members represented a cross-section of society and had been elected according to the Basic Law. 'If you were by my side to see how the committee members quizzed me [at question-and-answer sessions], you'd find that they all took their task seriously, whether they supported me or not,' he said. Candidates must supply the names of 100 committee members to support their candidacy. Since fewer than that did not nominate Mr Tung, and committee members can only nominate one candidate, no one else can contest the election. The Chief Executive side-stepped a question about the discrepancy between his 88 per cent support on the committee and public approval of 56.1 per cent according to University of Hong Kong polling. Mr Tung said he had noted that his popularity rating had risen slightly. But he said he did not necessarily feel happy when his rating rose, and would continue to constantly review his shortcomings in order to do better. The chairman of Mr Tung's campaign office, Executive Council Convenor Leung Chun-ying, said it was inappropriate to compare Mr Tung's popularity rating with the level of support he received from the Election Committee. He noted that overseas polling showed that when people were asked to rate a candidate without being given an alternative, the candidate usually only gained 50 to 60 per cent support. Mr Tung said he was pleased by the overwhelming support of the committee and saw it as a sign he had broad support from the community. He said he had set out to get maximum support. 'After I decided to run, I felt that I must win, and win convincingly, so people would feel I'm supported by most electors and the community.' He said that when he launched his campaign on December 13, he was confident of support from about 400 committee members, but reckoned he would need to work to seek the support of another 150. As for the remainder, he had to work 'very hard' for their endorsement, said Mr Tung. 'A few weeks ago, when I saw that no one was coming out to compete with me, I felt I must try to seek the support of an absolute majority,' said Mr Tung. He decided to submit his nomination papers to the Registration and Electoral Office yesterday because 'it would not be fair not to tell people that I have got the support of more than 700 Election Committee members'. The Election Committee was to have voted on the next chief executive on March 24. However, with no vote now required, Mr Tung can be declared the winner unopposed at 5pm on February 28, when the two-week nomination period for the post closes. Edgar Cheng Wai-kin, former head of the Central Policy Unit and now director of Mr Tung's campaign, said the team had not sought nominations from the committee's 30-plus members of an anti-Tung alliance because 'there was no point'. He said although 706 names had been submitted with the nomination forms, support was still coming in. A few more names could have been added, but were left off because the individuals concerned were overseas. It is understood that of the 46 sub-sectors represented by the 794 eligible committee members, 30 had unanimously signed up for Mr Tung. However, only about 60 per cent of committee members from the legal and social welfare sectors nominated him. Independent legislator and barrister Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and former Bar Association chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah were among those who refused to pledge support for Mr Tung. Nor did Tommy Wan Tai-min, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Mr Wan had supported Airport Authority chairman Victor Fung Kwok-king to run against Mr Tung. Those who did nominate Mr Tung included his brother Tung Chee-chen, property tycoon Li Ka-shing and his sons Victor Li Tzar-kuoi and Richard Li Tzar-kai. The Registration and Electoral Office said that of the 706 members supporting Mr Tung, 702 had had their nominations validated. There was no explanation about the other four.