The most outstanding characteristic of Party democracy and the one which reflects its essential character is the sharing by Party members in the Party’s power and the participation by Party members in the Party’s affairs. The further improvement and expansion of competitive elections is an important step in the active promotion and improvement of Party democracy.
The elections at the First Plenary meeting of the 11th Session of the Guangdong Provincial CPC Committee have produced a standing-committee for the new Session. These elections utilised the competitive election method; the Party Central Committee approved 14 Provincial Committee standing-committee candidates, and eventually 13 people were formally elected.
This attracted media attention; it is a step forward in Party democracy. The measure reflects Guangdong’s determination to actively push forward reform.
In the competitive election of Provincial Committee standing committees Guangdong is not the first. In November last year, Jiangsu Province produced a thirteen-member Provincial Committee standing committee by competitive election. And according to media reports, the provinces of Shanxi, Hunan, Guizhou, Qinghai and Shandong have all elected Provincial Committee standing committees by competitive election in the past. However, in this round of successive Session-change elections, the reason the Guangdong Provincial Committee standing committee elections became a focus of attention is because competitive elections hold hope of progress towards systematisation and normalisation.
The strengthening of democracy has been the prevailing trend.
On 9 September, 2004, the 4th Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Central Committee considered and passed the “Decision of the Central Committee of the CPC on Strengthening the Building of the Party’s Ability to Rule”, which proposed the need to build our Party into a ruling party that rules scientifically, democratically and lawfully.
In October of 2007, the Communist Party’s 17th National People’s Congress proposed: Unswervingly developing socialist democratic politics and defining political institutional reforms as an important element of China’s overall reforms. They must be deepened continually as economic society develops and adapt to the continual rise in the people’s enthusiasm for political participation.
Along with Reform and Opening-up and the continual rise in the people’s standard of living, fervour towards the people’s orderly political participation has also run high. Particularly in a place like Guangdong, with an advanced market economy and solid civic traditions, people have had greater motivation and a stronger need to go and participate in society’s public affairs and to influence changes in government public policies and advocacy systems.
The advantages of competitive elections lie in the fact that competition develops between the candidates. Constituents are given room for choice in the exercise of their electoral rights and it helps them to understand the candidates. From a system point of view, it raises the degree of democratisation of elections in a practical way. It is also beneficial to the selection of talent, meaning that outstanding talent is able to come to the fore. This is an important link in Party democracy; there are rules and regulations to be followed.
The fourth regulation in the “CPC Local Organisations Election Work Regulations”, distributed in January 1994, has ruled clearly that “at every level of Party local organisation: NPC delegates; local Party committee members, alternate members, and standing committee members; and local Commission for Discipline Inspection members and standing committee members are to hold competitive elections.” Clause Two also rules that: “local Party committees and Commissions for Discipline Inspection at every level are to hold single-candidate elections for committee/commission secretary and deputy secretary.” This is a binding internal regulation of the Party.
Party history experts have pointed out that advocating competitive elections within the Party is a form of respect towards the electors’ right to vote; as far as the person who is elected is concerned, only where there is competitive pressure will they be motivated to work better. This is an extremely important point; as a consequence, there will be quite a large change in the candidates’ psychology; they will realise that, in the end, their authority has been conferred by the electors; therefore they will be accountable to the electors and, in the course of exercising power in the future, will respect the electors’ wishes and serve the electors. That is to say, accountability to above will be changed into accountability to above and below. Just as Communist Party Central Committee General Secretary, Hu Jintao, requested: Use power for the people, have feelings for the people, do good for the people.
The most outstanding characteristic of Party democracy and the one which reflects its essential character is the sharing by Party members in the Party’s power and the participation by Party members in the Party’s affairs. In 2006, in an article in “Socialist Research”, the head of the School of Marxism Studies at Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, Hu Liansheng, pointed out that having citizen-elected holders of public power is: a stepping stone to entering a modern civic society, a prerequisite to ensuring the people become the “source of power” and the achieving of popular sovereignty, the basis for achieving restraint and supervision of power, and an important mechanism for creating servants of the people. Competitive elections is the standard form of democracy, allowing the voters to “shop around”; fair competition between candidates is its operating platform, allowing the voters to select on merit; the upholding of the authority of the results of the popular vote is an important guarantee of democratic elections. Therefore, further improving and expanding competitive elections is an important step in proactively advancing and improving Party democracy.
As far as the vast Party membership is concerned, they must keep firmly in mind that power comes from the people and does not originate from above, and that the ruling Party’s power is also entrusted by the people. Just as Wang Yang said at this Session-change’s 11th Guangdong Provincial Party congress, “The masses are the mainstay in creating history, and they are also the mainstay in building and enjoying a happy Guangdong. The pursuit of happiness is the people’s right; benefiting the people is the Party and Government’s responsibility. We must get rid of the mistaken idea that the people’s happiness is a gift of grace from the Party and the Government.”
A perfect election is not a silver bullet to resolve the issue of democracy. Apart from elections, we should also continually explore the achievement of new channels of democracy in other areas in order to develop socialist democratic politics. China is right in a process of transition, all kinds of social issues demand prompt resolution. However the key to effective resolution of these issues rests in Party organisations at each level making policy decisions rationally and, further, promoting scientific and democratic legislation and policies so that, by ensuring the people’s right to be informed, right to participate, right to speak out and right to monitor, in the end, the right of the vast people to lawful participation in the management of national and social affairs will be guaranteed.
“Editorial”, Zhongguo Xinwen Zhoukan 2012(17) p.5 (China Newsweek) 2012.5.21
Source: China Newsweek,21 May 2012