The legislature's functional constituencies cannot survive in their present form and their future will be addressed in next month's consultation on the 2012 Legislative Council elections, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said yesterday. The chief executive said the controversial trade-based seats were 'not totally compatible with the principles of equal and universal suffrage' and this would be a question to consider when designing electoral arrangements for the 2012 and 2016 Legco elections. It was the clearest indication yet by Tsang that the trade-based seats, which now make up half the 60-seat legislature, will be modified. Beijing has said universal suffrage can be introduced for the Legco election in 2020 and the chief executive election in 2017. The chief executive's words drew a storm of criticism from democrats, who took them as a signal that the functional constituencies, which they want abolished, will stay. 'Functional constituencies in their present form are not totally compatible with the principles of equal and universal suffrage,' Tsang, who barely mentioned electoral reform in his policy address on Wednesday, said during a rowdy question-and-answer session. 'They cannot be kept in their present form under the electoral system for Legco in 2020,' he said. 'Of course, we have to consider this issue in designing the methods for the elections in 2012 and 2016.' But Tsang also remained adamant that the consultation on reforms for 2012 would not include reference to the chief executive and all members of Legco being elected by universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020 respectively. 'I am worried that this will again result in no progress being made. I truly hope that nobody will create new obstacles in the path of reaching a consensus over the election methods on 2012,' Tsang said. Citing the pan-democrats' blocking of the 2005 reform proposal, which they considered undemocratic, Tsang urged lawmakers to 'learn the lesson' and 'pursue democracy, rather than pursue the subject of democracy'. During the 90-minute session, Tsang brushed aside criticism that he had breached his 2007 election promise to resolve the question of universal suffrage during his term. He said Beijing's decision in December 2007 ruling out universal suffrage in 2012 but allowing it to be introduced as early as 2017 was 'almost the biggest landmark for constitutional reform' in Hong Kong's 150-year history. Asking Beijing to reverse that decision would be 'almost mission impossible', he said. Currently, all 3.3 million registered voters can vote for the 30 geographical constituency lawmakers, but only 230,000 can vote in the functional constituencies. Furthermore, 150,000 of those 230,000 voters are concentrated in one constituency - labour, which has three seats - prompting further criticism that the system puts too much power in the hands of an unrepresentative few. Tsang's remarks angered Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing. Her party and its allies have long called for functional constituencies to be abolished. 'Are you trying to tell Hong Kong people that even if we do have a fully elected legislature in 2020, there will still be traces of functional constituencies? That you will retain them in disguise?' Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, said the impression he received was that functional constituencies would be there to stay if they were amended somehow - which he suspected was Beijing's solution for maintaining a check on the pan-democrats in the legislature.