Reuters exclusive report by Benjamin Kang Lim and Michael Martina from Beijing: “China’s outgoing leader and his likely successor are pushing the ruling Communist Party to adopt a more democratic process this month for choosing a new leadership, sources said, in an attempt to boost its flagging legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
“The extent of the reform would be unprecedented in communist China where elections for the highest tiers of the party, held every five years, have been mainly exercises in rubber-stamping candidates already agreed upon by party power-brokers.
“The Communist Party, which has held unbroken power since 1949, is struggling to maintain its popular legitimacy in the face of rising inequality, corruption and environmental degradation, even as the economy continues to bound ahead.
“President Hu Jintao and his heir, Xi Jinping, have proposed that the party’s 18th Congress, which opens on Thursday, should hold elections for the elite Politburo where for the first time there would be more candidates than available seats, said three sources with ties to the party leadership.
“The Politburo, currently 24 members, is the second-highest level of power in China from which the highest decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, is chosen.
“They are chosen by the roughly 200 full members of the Central Committee which is in turn chosen by the more than 2,000 delegates at this week’s Congress.
“Under their proposal, there would be up to 20 percent more candidates than seats in the new Politburo in an election to be held next week, the sources said. It was unclear if competitive voting would also be extended to the Standing Committee.
“‘Hu wants expanding intra-party democracy to be one of his legacies,’ one source said, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for discussing secretive elite politics.
“‘It would also be good for Xi’s image,’ the source added.
“Under the proposal, a Politburo with, say, 25 seats would be contested by a maximum of 30 candidates, leaving five of the candidates put forward by party power-brokers at risk of defeat.
“Given the Standing Committee is chosen from the Politburo, such a reform could also lead to surprises at the most elite level of the party, which is normally decided by painstaking consensus in a series of back-room negotiations.”
“At the last congress in 2007, there were 8 percent more candidates than seats for the Central Committee, up from 5 percent in 2002, according to CentralPartySchool professor Gao Xinmin writing in the Study Times, a party mouthpiece.
“Under the proposal, that could rise to up to 40 percent this time, the sources said.
“The State Council Information Office, which doubles as the party spokesman’s office, declined immediate comment.
“The Hu-Xi proposal has been put forward at a time when the party is split between leftists who worry about major economic inequalities that have opened up after three decades of free-market reforms and those who want to accelerate those reforms.
“The split revealed itself dramatically this year in the downfall of Politburo member Bo Xilai, a favorite of the left”.Source: Reuters “Exclusive: China leaders consider internal democratic reform”
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- China Communists consider internal democratic reform: Sources (todayonline.com)
- How does China choose its leaders? (cbc.ca)