Beijing's decision to rule out universal suffrage in the elections for the chief executive in 2007 and Legislative Council in 2008 leaves little room for meaningful changes to electoral methods, according to political analysts. Three of the four political scientists contacted by the South China Morning Post yesterday said the decision by the National People's Congress Standing Committee puts the brakes on democratic development, making significant changes possible only in theory. They said the theoretical options included increasing the size of the 800-member election committee which selects the chief executive. The analysts said election committee members, who now come from 38 sub-sectors representing various trades and professions, could also theoretically be returned by universal suffrage. While the Standing Committee capped the proportion of directly elected seats in the Legislative Council at 50 per cent, the analysts said the number of such seats could be increased by raising the total number of lawmakers. Another option is to allow the whole working population to vote in functional constituency polls - similar to a proposal by former governor Chris Patten in 1992. But Ma Ngok, a political analyst from the University of Science and Technology, said: 'Many things that are possible theoretically won't be approved in the political reality.' He said the option to increase the size of the election committee would not be approved by Beijing, while the business sector would not want to lose their corporate votes to the entire working population in the election of Legco's functional constituency seats. He added that as the Standing Committee's decision had seriously damaged the government's legitimacy, the public was unlikely to view any improvement in electoral methods as real progress.