Community direct elections in Nanjing

Author(s): He Rong, Jason Kyriakides
Posted: 2009-9-11
Source date:2009-9-11
Number of hits:453
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On September 7, News Probe program ran a special program called "My Campaign for Secretary of the Party Committee," which examined recent direct election projects in Nanjing city, Jiangsu province.
By the end of August, 363 communities in Nanjing had selected their community secretaries, vice-secretaries and Party committees by a two-step process of "open recommendation" and direct election.  "Open recommendation" involves selecting candidates for election by getting a recommendation from Party members and Party organizations.  The two candidates with the most recommendations are chosen to run in the direct election, during which they must both give a speech and answer questions.In the end, thevotes will be called out on the spot and the candidate with more votes will win the election.
The first community the program studied was the Huaihai Road community in Nanjing, which has approximately 10,000 residents, over 350 Party members and more than 400 enterprises, public institutions and private businesses.  The two candidates running for Secretary of the Party Committee were Chen Ming, the incumbent Secretary who was known for his maturity and his experience in the community; and Zhao Zhicun, a cadre from the district level who was new to Huaihai but was young and very passionate about serving.  The two were selected after the other two major candidates were eliminated and the community Party members voted for Chen and Zhao.
Before the election, the two candidates conducted interviews with residents, street sweepers and Party members in order to know the specific problems of the community. During the election, both of them first presented a speech.  In his speech, Chen emphasized his experience as a Party member for over 20 years, and his rejection of running for "reputation or promotion."  Zhao emphasized his youth and energy, his experience working for street-level and community-level organizations, and his education. Following the speeches, there came the Q and A section. Party members posted questions concerning the construction of the community for both of the candidates. Later on, the votes were counted and called out, and the election was a victory for incumbent Chen.
"I should say it's a fair, open election." said Zhao after the election. "People elected the leader to their satisfaction. This is a good sign. The result is beyond my expectation. I was very confident and thought I had the advantage to beat my opponent. However, it turned out that I still need to work harder. There are mainly two reasons that caused my defeat in the election. One is that I lack working experience; the other is that I didn't perform so well during the Q and A section. I still need to improve myself."
As the winner, Chen said, "I was very confident during the campaign; however, after I was elected, my emotion changed a lot. How can I fulfill my promises and be worthy of people's trust and support? I'm under a lot of pressure right now."
Yun Yuchun, a 64-year-old Party member with a passion for community work said, "I was so touched (by the two candidates' speeches) that my eyes' were full of tears. Since in the past, the cadres were appointed by leaders. Usually, they just released a name list of candidates and asked people to choose. However, this time, every candidate should present a speech… The procedure perfectly represented the spirit of democracy."
Like Chen Ming, many young cadres from local government organizations are now working as the Secretary of Community via direct election. Wang Yingjuan, the 29-year old Secretary of Taicheng Garden Community, is an example. She just took office in early August. She shares exactly the same feeling with Chen Ming: "During the campaign, my only concern was how to win the election. However, when I was elected I found there were so many responsibilities on my shoulders. Many people think that it's easy to do community work. However, it wasn't until I engaged in the work that I realized it's far from being an easy job."
Since the first experiment in December, 2004, open recommendation and direct election have been implemented all around Nanjing city. The second community mentioned in the program was Gaochun County in Nanijing. 
In 2006, 8 towns and villages in Gaochun County implemented direct elections with as many as 120 people signing up.  Sun Zhaohui, the director of the Organizing Department at the time of the election, described the difficulty of convincing the Gaochun Party members that they truly had the right to vote in an election that was not going to be controlled.  Similarly, the director of the Nanjing Organizing Department noted that the tradition of planning the election in advance had to be unwritten in order to make the elections actually serve their purpose.
Zhang Xiaoping, the Secretary of the Party Committee of Zhuang Qiang in Gaochun, was the first in his seat to be directly elected.  Till now, every scene of the election remains fresh in his memory. He still remembered the first question for him in the election was how he could solve the drinking water problem if he was elected. He made the promise of guaranteeing a 24-hour clean water supply within one or two years. After taking office, he fulfilled his promise.
"In the past, we are only responsible for our leaders," Zhang said. "But now we are not only supposed to be responsible for our leaders, but also for the Party members who elected us. I have been maintaining this attitude since I was elected."
In the third segment of the program, Xin Ming, a professor from the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, discussed the future of the direct elections project.  "As a revolutionary party representing the proletariat, the Communist Party has always been aware that a good party should have a good inner-Party democracy system," He said, "Our Communist Party has always been paying a great attention to the construction of the inner-Party democracy. However, frankly speaking, the development of intra-Party democracy has not been as satisfactory as we expected. Why? Because there is a problem within the system. If there is no system to guarantee democracy, then the idea and demand will just be empty talk. "
He also pointed out that the dual systems of open recommendation and direct election are irresistible, as they better meet the demands of contemporary social development than the current system of cadre selection.
Some China observers suggest that these innovative measures Nanjing adopted might have been a political legacy of Li Yuanchao, former Sercretary of the Jiangsu Provincial Party Committee and now a member of the CCP Politburo and head of the CCP Department of Party organization.  While it is unknown whether the Nanjing model of intra-Party democracy will be introduced to the entire country, the fact that it received such high-profile attention on CCTV may have a significant political implication on the Party leadership as the CCP prepares for its 18th National Congress, scheduled to take place in 2012.