An electoral reform proposal from the founding chairman of the Democratic Party met with a lukewarm response from fellow pan-democrats amid a heated debate on the introduction of universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive poll. In one of the first ideas to emerge from pan-democrat ranks, Martin Lee Chu-ming suggested that at least five candidates should be allowed to run in the 2017 race, making it possible for at least one pan-democrat to gain entry into the poll. But this would mean accepting a 1,200-strong nominating committee, with its formation based on the existing election committee, and that the candidates would be nominated by the committee "as a whole", as suggested by Qiao Xiaoyang , chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee. "Now we are trying to find some middle ground," Lee said. "So that eventually both sides can have candidates in the race." Lee admitted his proposal was neither perfect nor achieved universal or equal suffrage, "but at least it is not going backwards". "It is our final step and the worst-case scenario. If [Beijing] will not accept it, it means they are not sincere at all and there is no need for further discussion," he said. Lee added that the pan-democrats should also consider negotiating with the central government, but "just not be fooled again like last time [in 2010]". In response to Lee's proposal, Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said he was giving his own view. "He has not discussed this proposal with the party," she said. "It is good that different proposals are thrown up for discussion. But, most importantly, universal suffrage should include the right to vote and the right to be nominated." It is good that different proposals are thrown up for discussion. But, most importantly, universal suffrage should include the right to vote and the right to be nominated Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said he would only "treat it as one of the many proposals". Tam Yiu-chung, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, welcomed Lee's proposal as "relatively pragmatic". "It will be difficult to proceed if the reform discussions aren't based on the Basic Law and NPC decisions." But Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, of the Alliance for True Democracy, a grouping of all 27 pan-democratic lawmakers, said the idea was unacceptable as they did not accept a screening mechanism. And Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said the pan-democrats were not likely to accept Lee's proposal. However, former Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said he was willing to explore the rules for nominating candidates for the 2017 election. In a meeting with pro-establishment lawmakers in Shenzhen last month, Qiao stated that future chief executives must fulfil the criteria of "love country, love Hong Kong" and "not confronting the central government". Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, yesterday said Qiao was "expressing an expectation instead of setting out criteria".