by Xinhua Writers Lyu Qiuping, Liang Tianyun, Xu Yang
BEIJING, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- Compared with the U.S. presidential election that recently stunned the world, retiree Han Yueai cares more about the election on her own doorstep.
Han and 2,300 of her neighbors in Bajiaobeili neighborhood of Beijing's Shijingshan District on Tuesday voted for three district-level deputies to the people's congress.
"People vote for their own representatives to solve difficulties for people," she said.
On Tuesday, residents of 16 districts in Beijing Municipality, including the top leadership of the country, voted for more than 4,300 district-level and 10,000 township-level deputies for the people's congress.
Han asked one of the candidates Chen Peng about how to address the nursing facility shortage in the neighborhood, as she could not find a vacant bed in any local nursing home.
"If I am elected I will negotiate with civil affairs and other related departments in the district, and speed up construction of more nursing homes," Chen said at a meeting between voters and candidates organized by the local election committee.
Chen, 42, has won people's favor over the past two years, serving as head of the neighborhood. Other candidates include the manager of a local company, the owner of a private pharmacy and a grassroots cadre.
DEMOCRACY CHINESE STYLE
The people's congress system has been in place for 62 years and is China's fundamental political system. There are people's congresses from the national level right down to the smallest townships. At township and county level, deputies are directly elected by citizens every five years. Deputies of higher levels are voted by deputies from lower levels.
More than 900 million Chinese have or will elect over 2.5 million deputies at county and township levels in elections running into next year, making it the world's largest election in terms of voter numbers.
Huang Shisong, deputy secretary general of the executive committee of Beijing Municipal People's Congress, said to ensure the transparency of the elections, disciplinary bodies of the municipality will send official inspectors to 16 districts, and encourage residents to tip them off regarding any violations in behavior.
In Shijingshan, 10 residents were invited as civilian inspectors to oversee voter registration, candidate selection, meetings with candidates and, crucially, voting.
"Considering the vital significance of the election, I feel a responsibility to oversee the whole process," said Zhao Yingchun, a civilian inspector from Lugu residential community, who joined in voting supervision and vote counting Tuesday.
No violations have been found in the election procedure so far, according to Huang.
Other regions of China are also creating ways to ensure electoral openness. In Muling City, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, vote counting machines were introduced in October, and voters were able to see the real-time votes of each candidate on an LED screen.
Zhu Lijia, of the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the people's congress system enables people's representatives to participate in decision making, legislation and supervision.
"It is a democracy that fits China, although the system can be improved," he said, adding that balancing urban-rural representation at the people's congress was an example of improvement.
In 2010, China amended its Electoral Law to ensure both rural and urban areas adopt the same ratio of deputies, ending a practice where rural deputies represented a population four times greater that urban deputies.
Lured by political power, some officials have sought votes by offering bribes or other under-the-table means.
According to a statement from the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), as of mid-October this year, 245 officials have been punished for malpractices in local elections, including attending banquets while inspecting cadres, leaking confidential information, canvassing, seeking promotion through improper methods, and spreading fabricated information in local elections.
Penalties issued included warnings, demotions, and expulsions from CPC and administrative posts.
The most notorious case of election fraud found was in January 2013, when 45 National People's Congress deputies were elected from the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress through vote buying and bribery. A total of 523 deputies to the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress were implicated in the fraud.
Dai Yanjun, deputy director of the Party-building department at the Party school of the CPC Central Committee, said that local elections at various levels had learned lessons from the Liaoning case, and the electoral system had been improved.
"We should lock up power by building a transparent system. If every step during an election is open and transparent, under-the-table and power-for-money deals will find nowhere to hide," he said.