This program was a nominee for the "Local Government with Best Sense of Responsibility" award.
In 2006, the Work Commission for Deputy Election of the Standing Committee of the Ya'an Municipal People's Congress received approval from the local CPC Committee to pilot a multi-faceted election reform for People's Congress Deputies. The pilot was carried out in the towns of Hejiang and Guanhua in Yucheng district, Sanhe in Yingjing County, and Renyi in Tianquan.
Election procedures were designed to conform to local needs and thoroughly publicized within the communities. Almost 4,500 staff members, cadres (similar to civil servants in other countries), and voters received pre-election training. Various approaches were used to communicate with citizens, to update them about the reform, and to encourage their participation in voting. They received publications such as The Pilot Work Newsletter, The Policy Guide of Pilot Work, and An Open Letter to Party Members and Citizen Voters.
The reform included the following innovations:
- Voter Registration: Under the previous system, voters registered once for all elections. This system promoted voting irregularities. To avoid these irregularities, the reform had citizens above age 18 register at a voter registration office during a 20 day period that ended 5 days before the election. To obtain their voting certificate, citizens had to show their identification card and Hukou (Household Registration Book). If they could not register themselves they could empower another person to register for them by giving that person a photocopy of their ID card and warrant. If voters did not register or have someone register for them, they were deemed to have waived their right to vote.
- Democratization of Candidate Nomination: Rather than being nominated by the Committee, citizens could recommend themselves to be candidates for Deputy by presenting 10 voter signatures. Since adoption of this nomination procedure, 293 citizens recommended themselves for 174 Deputy posts in the four pilot towns.
- Campaign Reform: In the past, party organizations introduced candidates. Candidates now meet the voters, answer questions and make commitments to them.
- Secret Ballots: Voters can now choose the most convenient location from among 74 ballot stations in the pilot towns. Each station has a confidential room for voting. Voters are given a leaflet printed with the candidate's name, photo and number. (The photos are provided for illiterate voters.) Voters enter the room and exercise their right to vote in privacy
- Election Supervision: Each candidate is allowed to invite a reliable voter to supervise the election process. That person assists with vote counting and certifies the accuracy of the results.
- Elimination of Conflict of Interest: Any member of the electoral committee who decides to run for Deputy is now required to resign his/her post on the Electoral Committee.
Post election this system is having important effects on society. The motto for the reform is, "Deputies elected by the people should serve the people wholeheartedly." Deputies now regularly visit with the public to ascertain their concerns and demands. They channel these concerns to the relevant government departments. As a result, Deputies are beginning to enjoy higher prestige and citizens are more willing to ask Deputies for help. Since citizens can directly express their concerns to elected officials, election reform has reinforced the legitimacy of government and improved the relationship between the people and their government. It is not a surprise that citizens would like to continue this electoral reform as it is making relationships more harmonious*.
* Harmonious Society: The current leadership (in China) is committed to generating greater economic development in the interior and providing more services to those who do not live in China's coastal areas, goals that form the core of President Hu's concepts of a "harmonious society." http://www.state.gov/