Beaming with confidence and a sense of purpose, Anson Chan Fang On-sang sought to impress on the public yesterday that she was not down or out after declaring she would not run for chief executive. She said she had never contemplated running, although her repeated remark that she was 'taking a step at a time' raised public expectations about her candidacy. Whether she was telling the whole truth is anyone's guess. But it does not take much to assess her chances of unseating Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. Under the present electoral system, and in the current political environment, the re-election of Mr Tsang is a foregone conclusion. Even if she had been able to narrow the popularity gap between herself and Mr Tsang in an election campaign, the outcome would have been the same. Against that background, a challenge by Mrs Chan would likely have further strained the nerves of the Beijing leadership. With campaigning for the Election Committee sub-sector polls heating up, to keep on playing her cards close to her chest was as untenable as it was politically unwise. The story of Mrs Chan aspiring to the top post has ended. Now she will tread a more difficult path to prolong her political influence. Enter her new core group to push for universal suffrage, drawn from the city's elite and with the morality, integrity and brainpower to break new ground on the all-important issues of constitutional reform and good governance. Theirs will be an uphill battle. Underlying Mrs Chan's admission about the difficulty of recruiting businesspeople to the group is an awareness of the limited room to manoeuvre in the current charged political atmosphere. Like it or not, Mrs Chan faces the risk of being sidelined politically after declaring she will not run for chief executive. One core group member, Chandran Nair, yesterday described Mrs Chan as 'a unique voice'. Her popularity and charisma aside, she will continue to enjoy a wide audience in Hong Kong, Beijing and the international community if she is able to maintain her 'unique voice', which is close to the hearts and minds of the people.