China's first mayor to be elected through public competition, instead of being designated, was officially named over the weekend in Jintan city, east China's Jiangsu Province, by the local legislature "the municipal people's congress.
Experts said that it is a good attempt to upgrade grass-roots democracy under the current governmental official selection system, but warned that it may also bring more corruption.
Wu Xiaodong, 39, won 229 votes from 233 delegates on Friday at the second session of the 14th Jintan Municipal People's Congress, which was closed over the weekend.
"I am so excited to become the country's first mayor proposed by the public,'' he said. "I will shoulder the trust of over 200 congress delegates and 540,000 local residents.''
Wu became the only candidate for the mayor position, after defeating 58 other officials from the Changzhou area.
All 59 candidates for the mayor position had undergone a long process including applying, choosing, investigation and research, election-rally speech and answering questions as part of the selection process. But the number of voters in these earlier rounds was not available.
The move to select a mayor and a county head through public proposal was implemented by the Organization Department of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China in the second half of last year.
Wu vowed to perform his duties properly and accelerate the economic development of Jintan, a developed city in the eastern part of Jiangsu Province, 100 kilometers from the provincial capital Nanjing.
Wu graduated from Xuzhou-based China University of Mining and Technology with a Master's degree in 1990, and has held posts ranging from being a construction authority to working for an urban engineering company. He was the executive vice-mayor of Jintan before he was elected mayor.
Xu Xianglin, professor of Peking University's School of Government, said the election of the first mayor proposed by the public marks significant progress in the country's official selection system.
Candidates to senior governmental offices were appointed by Party's organizational departments and upper officials before being voted, according to Xu.
"It is democratic progress under the current official system, supervised by the Communist Party of China,'' Xu said, emphasizing that it is still not an election directly by the general public, but by officials at certain levels.
Xu's colleague, Jin Anping, an associate professor in the School of Government, agreed on the positive impact of Wu's election. But she also expressed her worries.
"Since the procedure of choosing a candidate is done among governmental officials, will it result in more serious corruption as a person who wants to be chosen has to convince all of the related officials, instead of mere organization officials or certain high officials like before"'' Jin said.
(China Daily January 12, 2004)