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Villager Charged for Election Fraud
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A 52-year-old man in Beijing's Fengtai District has been charged with buying votes when a fellow villager ran for a seat on the township People's Congress. He allegedly paid 10 yuan (US$1.20) per vote.


The defendant, surnamed Liu, is making his first court appearance Thursday.


Sources at the People's Court of Fengtai District say the case is the first of its kind in the district. A decision is not likely to be handed down today.


Since the nominated candidate, surnamed Shen, was not from Liu's village, Liu tried to get voters to choose another person, surnamed Zhang. He promised to pay them for their votes, according to the bill of indictment.


At the election on February 25, Shen got only 134 votes, fewer than half of the total possible of 290. Zhang got 90 and Liu paid more than 300 yuan (US$36) in bribes.


Since no candidate got more than half of the votes, no one was elected.


Prosecutors say Liu's actions disrupted the elections and violated the Criminal Law.


Election frauds are a topic of growing concern and some areas are considering legal remedies.


On Tuesday, the top legislature of east China's Zhejiang Province deliberated a draft amendment to the village committee election regulations originally promulgated in 1999. The amendment adds stricter requirements on proxy voting and portable ballot boxes, which are the two main weak links, a local newspaper reported.


The amendment would only allow persons who work or live outside the province to entrust others to vote for them. Proxies would be limited to voting on behalf of two persons instead of the existing three.


Only the elderly, the handicapped and people who are ill and cannot go to the polling place would be permitted to use portable ballot boxes.


In the 2002 village committee elections, about 42 percent of the voters in Zhejiang used portable ballot boxes.


According to a public survey conducted by the Zhejiang Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection, election bribery ranked second among incidents of corruption in rural areas, following only financial mismanagement.


Zhejiang's private sector has seen a boom in the past decade, and it is very common for villages to be manipulated by wealthy people.


According to the Zhejiang Provincial Bureau of Civil Affairs, about 30 percent of the winners in village committee elections in 2002 were in the higher income bracket. The rate reached as high as 60 percent in some of the more well-off areas.


(China Daily July 29, 2004)

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