Pan-democrats spring a surprise in vote to pick Election Committee; Results show wish for debate and a contested poll, candidate says A contested chief executive race looks likely for the first time in 10 years after the pan-democrats made surprise inroads in the Sunday poll to form the panel that will choose Hong Kong's next leader. Of the 137 candidates affiliated with the Civic Party, Democratic Party and their allies, 114 won seats on the Election Committee, a result that took the parties' leaders as well as Beijing and the office of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen by surprise. Together with 20 allied lawmakers on the committee, Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit is expected to secure 134 nominations, more than the 100 required to stand against Mr Tsang in the March race. The pan-democrats have been pushing for competition in the chief executive election since Tung Chee-hwa and Mr Tsang were criticised for lacking quality platforms in their uncontested victories in 2000 and last year. Only the first chief executive race, in 1996, attracted contenders - four of them. Mr Leong, who has no chance of winning the top job, said the results showed people's strong wish for a contested chief executive race, with debates on policy platforms. 'We hope that those in power could have a clear understanding of Hong Kong people's aspirations for democracy and a contested chief executive election,' he said. Asked whether he was confident of getting enough nominations, he said: 'With today's results, of course I'm confident that I probably could get 100 votes, but this is no time to be complacent.' Responding to the poll results, Mr Tsang said he was happy to see the record turnout of 27.44 per cent, adding that the whole election was 'conducted smoothly [and was] open, transparent and fair'. But he did not comment on the prospect of Mr Leong's challenge. 'We hope that those who are qualified and those who are intending to participate in the election in March seriously consider doing so.' Buoyed by the record turnout, all pan-democrat candidates in seven sub-sectors were returned. Those sub-sectors are: information technology, higher education, education, legal, health services, engineering and accountancy. Central government liaison office director Gao Siren said he was very happy with the polling results but did not elaborate. Mr Leong's campaign aide said Sunday's results were still no guarantee of gaining entry to the chief executive race, citing possible pressure from mainland officials to stop winners from nominating the Civic Party legislator. 'Many things will happen between now and March and the liaison office will exert all its power in the matter. We expect we will lose some nominations,' Democratic Party legislator Yeung Sum said. Civic Party legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah said there were hidden supporters outside the 114-strong list who could nominate Mr Leong. Sources close to Beijing and to Mr Tsang said the central government and Mr Tsang's team were surprised by the the pan-democrats' strong showing. Beijing's original estimate for the pan-democrats was said to be below 100 seats, while the Tsang camp put the figure at slightly more than 100, one source said. Mr Tsang's team estimated the chief executive's allies would get three or four seats in the legal sub-sector, the source said. But the pan-democrats scooped all 20 seats. The Tsang camp also expected only four or five of the 20 accountancy seats to be taken by rivals. But the seven pan-democrat candidates were all returned. Another source close to the chief executive said Mr Leong would likely secure about 130 nominations, forcing Mr Tsang would modify his campaign strategy. 'Mr Tsang's campaign and platform will be modified. Apart from the 800 Election Ccommittee members, he will face the public and media more, like a direct election,' the source said. Casino and property tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun, a winner in the real estate sector, said Mr Leong was likely to secure enough nominations to stand. But asked about Mr Leong's chances of winning, Dr Ho said: 'Absolutely none. Zero chance.' Chinese University political analyst Ivan Choy Chi-keung believed Beijing would step up efforts to consolidate support for Mr Tsang in the coming race.