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Revised Election Law to Enhance Democracy

The Standing Committee of the 10th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislative body, passed an amendment to the nation’s Election Law on Wednesday, injecting more democracy into grass-roots elections.

The 1979 Election Law covers elections to all levels of legislative bodies, from the NPC to grass-roots bodies. Previous amendments were passed in 1982, 1986 and 1995.

The new amendment introduces preliminary elections to the system and strengthens prohibitions against bribery.

The Standing Committee also passed an amendment to the law on the organization of local congresses before closing its six-day session.

The amendment says extends the tenure of all local people’s congresses to five years. People’s congresses at township level previously held three-year terms, inconsistent with the five years held at higher congresses.

Additionally, the Standing Committee approved internal appointments of Li Lianning, He Yehui and Sun Wei as deputy secretaries-general.

The new appointments are expected to invigorate the Standing Committee’s lawmaking and supervisory capacities: Li holds a master’s degree in civil law and He served in the country’s top prosecutors’ office before being elected to the committee last year.

NPC insiders said more professionals are needed in the country’s top legislature because lawmaking is becoming increasingly complicated. Members with technical, economics and legal backgrounds are required to understand domestic market development needs and the new legal theories necessary to support domestic legislation.

The Election Law says that NPC deputies and deputies to the people’s congresses of provinces, municipalities and larger cities are elected by the people’s congresses at the next lower level. Deputies to the people’s congresses of counties, smaller cities, municipal districts, townships and towns are elected directly by their constituencies.

Candidates may be nominated by political parties or organizations or by groups of 10 or more voters. The list of candidates in direct elections is finalized through discussion by the electoral committee.

The amendment says that preliminary elections will be adopted when the electoral committee cannot reach a consensus.

(China Daily October 28, 2004)

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