Politics is unpredictable, isn't it? What seems impossible today can be possible tomorrow - or vice versa.
As more and more people grow pessimistic about the vote on the 2012 political reform package, talks suddenly abound that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will give the proposal a final push by lobbying the central government to agree to a crucial demand from the Democratic Party.
Why the renewed optimism? It's because of an unannounced meeting that took place Monday between party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan and Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, along with a number of senior officials.
Tang asked Ho point-blank if his party would support the 2012 proposal if the government agrees to its demand the general public will elect legislators from the new five-seat district council functional constituency following their nomination by district council members.
It was unexpected in view of the fact that on the same day, the Central Government Liaison Office director- general of publicity, culture and sports Hao Tiechuan thumbed down the Democrats' plan as unnecessary and "gilding the lily."
Ho's immediate response, according to Sing Tao Daily, was affirmative. He pledged to convince his party to support the proposal - even if its costs him the party chairmanship. Ho passed on the news to party colleagues and members of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage. Tang's inquiry was read as a positive sign Beijing had not slammed the door completely.
As said before, the Democratic Party had made three demands in exchange for its support - namely, definition of universal suffrage, a mechanism for dialogue with Beijing, and direct election for district-council lawmakers.
The first two cannot be the real stumbling blocks to a deal on the 2012 proposal. The district-council functional constituency plan is the substance because it will determine how lawmakers are to be elected from the new functional constituency. In wake of the Monday meeting, the sky seems a lot clearer. Or does it? It's often said that in politics, even a day is too long. However, it's also often difficult to differentiate between truth and disguise. When most people are prepared for the cold front, chances are they could be delighted by warm weather. The same could hold true in reverse order.
It remains unclear how the central government will respond to the lobby. But there are certain considerations the cadres are bound to weigh. If the central government agrees to the Democrats' demand regarding the election of new district council lawmakers, it can look forward to establishing a cooperative working relationship with the biggest opposition party in the Legislative Council, which would bode well for SAR governance.
What will be the costs if it rejects the Democrats? Undoubtedly, this would likely prompt them and other moderates to pursue a more radical line. The local political eco-system will then deteriorate, making it harder for the administration to push through policies.
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