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CPC exempts nomination restrictions, advances democracy at county level elections

06-19-2011 13:44 BJT

SHENZHEN, June 19 -- Li Mengzhi still recalls how he was chosen as one of the two final candidates for head of the Yangxi County Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Guangdong Province.

On June 7, Li stood behind a podium with six other candidates where they would each deliver a 15-minute speech. The 136 audience members, Party cadres of Yangjiang and some experienced Party members, then voted immediately after the final speech.

Li, an official in charge of the housing and urban-rural development of Yangjiang, later learned via a text message that he was one of the two finalists competing for the Party head of Yangxi. The message came from Li Zelin, a standing committee member of the Yangjiang city Communist Party committee and organizer of the election.

Candidates for the preliminary election were required to meet specific criteria. Each candidate had to be a county-level official under age 52, hold a university degree, and have at least two years of government work experience, Li Zelin said.

Altogether, 21 people in Yangjiang qualified.

The fact that the CPC is selecting a county-level head through a multi-candidate election is novel enough, although Yangxi is not the first one to do it.

In 2008, four districts and counties under the jurisdiction of Guiyang, provincial capital of Guizhou, elected their Party heads by this method.

Typically, Party heads in counties are directly nominated or appointed by an upper-level Party head without an election. Even if there is one, the initial candidates can qualify only by recommendation of the upper-level Party heads or Party committees.

In Guiyang's election, the initial candidates were nominated, and many qualified cadres didn't have the right to apply for that election.

But in Yangxi's election, all qualified persons could apply for the multi-candidate election "personally," or nominate themselves.

"The change is aimed at giving qualified cadres themselves the right to choose to be or not to be nominated, and giving the power of appointment and removal to the lower cadres and party members," Li Zelin said.

But the key problem in the selection of cadres lies in the initial nomination process, according to Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance. "But Yangjiang has granted the right of initial nomination to more people, and that shows the democracy," Zhu said.

Those who are qualified and are willing to take the post can apply to compete transparently, which also makes the process fairer and competitive, Zhu added.

Yangjiang's move shows China's determination to advance democracy within the Party in a larger scale and at a higher level, Zhu said.

"The CPC has tried to implement democracy in several different ways in recent years, but one common trend, the attitude has changed from 'select from a few and by few' to 'select from the masses and by masses,'" Zhu said.

The CPC, which is in the lead-up to the 90th anniversary of its founding on July 1, has always taken intra-Party democracy as the Party's life line.

"The democratic-style changes that have already been made in the initial nomination process have shown great progress," said Wu Kechang, chairman of the Public School of Administration at the South China University of Technology.

Wu believes this kind of multi-candidate election will also serve to select the really capable for the posts of county Party heads, who are considered the backbone of the CPC.

"It will also effectively eliminate bribery and other illegal practices in the election," Wu said.

Similar to the multi-candidate elections conducted for village and township-level Party committees, Wu thinks that multi-candidate elections for county-level Party heads will eventually cover more areas.

In 2003, the Party selected its first township Party head through a multi-candidate election in Mulan township of Sichuan Province. So far, the method has been promoted in more and more areas, including Jiangsu, Chongqing, Guangxi and Liaoning.

Wu thinks Yangxi may set an example and hopes to see the exemption of restrictions for initial nominations in future multi-candidate elections for Party heads in other areas.

During the Yangxi election, Li Mengzhi said his speech was plain but touching, without too much cliche.

"I have a clear and comprehensive understanding of Yangxi's economic and social conditions, and more importantly, I have my own plan about Yangxi's future development," he said.

That might be the key of his winning. In Party member and voter Huang Jindong's eyes, the ideal candidate must have a "delicate" administrative plan and make certain promises to audiences before taking a post.

"If the candidate doesn't have an overall knowledge of Yangxi county and its people, or doesn't have a plan to improve the county, I won't vote for him or her," Huang said.

Wu Hongjian, head of the Yangxi County government and the only female to compete in the election, failed to canvass Party members to vote for her.

"We didn't know the themes of our speeches until the morning of the election," she said, adding that the whole process highlighted democracy, fairness and competitiveness.

Another also-ran, Chen Jingyong, director of the Management Committee of Yangjiang High-Tech Industrial Development Zone, said, "I'm willing to accept this selection process, which gives me an opportunity to compete fairly with others."

Chen said he had no complaints that he wasn't selected and believes the winners are actually more capable.

According to Li Zelin, the final election will be held soon in Yangxi.

"There may be drawbacks to some forms of democracy, such as loopholes in institutional design or flaws in the methods of selection and appointment, but it reflects the CPC is stepping forward in finding more effective ways," Wu Hongjian said.

Yangxi's experiment is just part of the Party's accumulated experience in pushing forward its democracy, Zhu Lijia said. "It will finally lead to a higher level of democracy for all Chinese people."

(Xinhua reporters Wang Pan, Kong Bo and Mao Yizhu contributed to the story.)

Editor:Sun Luying |Source: Xinhua

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