He says factions could help remove the divide between people and government A leading political scientist has called for the strengthening of the party system in Hong Kong. He says this would help solve the problems of fragmented interests and counter the weak public support faced by the government. Kuan Hsin-chi, professor and chief of the government and public administration department at the Chinese University, said yesterday that the present anti-partisan political culture and system must be examined in the next constitutional review. He said the gap between the government and the people was widening. The academic, who also heads a government taskforce on social cohesion, attributed this to structural constraints, arguing that the removal of the chief executive would not remedy the faults. Over the past six years, he said institutions that could have acted as strong intermediaries between the government and the people had not functioned well. He cited cases including the abolition of the municipal councils, the sidelining of district councils, the civil service pay cuts, advisory bodies being under-used and the legislature being excluded from the policy-making process. As a result, he said the executive branch was 'losing institutional capital for governance' as well as putting up barriers between it and the people. With the media playing a growing political role, he warned it would be wrong to think a partnership between the government and selected mass media could ensure good governance. Professor Kuan said the legislature and party system must be taken seriously as a political intermediary between the government and the people in future political reforms. 'Democracy in a modern, mass society is unthinkable without functioning political parties and a healthy party system,' he said. 'Even a small step toward the recognition of a legitimate role for political parties may have significant consequences for legitimacy and capacity. 'Imagine, for example, what would happen if party leaders are allowed to stand for election of the chief executive and, if elected, retain ... party membership or leadership,' he said at a lunch hosted by the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation. At present, candidates with party affiliations are banned from running for the top post. Professor Kuan said he supported full universal suffrage and was convinced Hong Kong was ready for democracy. He said it remained unclear whether the new leadership in Beijing would give a free hand for Hong Kong people to discuss the way forward on democratisation. People would feel discouraged with remarks made by the former vice-premier Qian Qichen last year that functional constituency polls should be retained permanently.