The Legislative Council election managed to provide much last-minute drama and a few surprises, despite the lacklustre campaign leading up to Sunday's poll. The major parties all lost some seats, but the Liberal Party was dealt a crushing blow. The biggest winners are the independent mavericks and veteran provocateurs. Instead of party blocs, the new Legco will have a wider variety of critical voices. Despite her defeat in a December by-election, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, the former security chief, won a Hong Kong Island seat with the second-highest number of votes. She will be joined in the new legislature by outspoken former radio host Wong Yuk-man, serial disturber of Legco meetings 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, and Paul Tse Wai-chun, who has in the past dressed as Superman and posed almost-naked to promote various causes. These men will make for a rather more rambunctious legislature. Having more independents and splinter groups will help Legco perform checks and balances better. But the fragmented composition will also make it more difficult for the government to bargain and push forward major initiatives such as constitutional and health-care reform. The current administration can expect a tough fight over whatever proposals it puts forward for the election of the chief executive and legislature in 2012, the interim constitutional package that will pave the way for universal suffrage promised by Beijing towards the end of the next decade. In general, candidates who tackled livelihood issues and appealed to the working class did well; those perceived to favour business interests did not. The balance of power between the pan-democrats and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has not changed significantly. Both camps now have two fewer seats than after the 2004 election. The democrats, no doubt, breathed a deep sigh of relief. They managed to hold on to 23 seats, enough to have veto power over any constitutional reform package. This was despite widespread belief - even among democrats - that the camp would be hit hard by the calm political climate. The DAB, however, had expected better results. With 10 seats, it remains the party with the highest number of lawmakers. Conventional wisdom had it that a low voter turnout - which at 45 per cent was 10 percentage points lower than that in 2004 - would hurt the pan-democrats most. This can no longer hold true. Worrying implications flow from the rout of the Liberal Party. High inflation has turned poor and working-class voters against the avowedly pro-business party. All its candidates - including chairman James Tien Pei-chun and vice-chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee - were defeated in the geographical constituencies. The two political heavyweights' electoral victory in 2004 had given hope that their party and the community it represents would develop greater confidence in supporting direct elections. Now, there is a danger that the business community will resort to relying on functional constituencies. This would be a mistake. These so-called 'small-circle' constituencies should be phased out as Hong Kong moves towards universal suffrage. The Liberal Party should take its defeats as an opportunity to revamp its mission and reshape its message. Hong Kong's prosperity is built on free trade and free enterprise. All over the world, these assets are seen as conducive to democratic development. Sadly, this is not universally accepted here. The democrats need to show they are not anti-business, and the business community should realise the city's future lies with full democracy.