Lure of power needs taming

Updated: 2013-12-30 07:15

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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Lure of power needs tamingBribery scandal in Hengyang shows strengthened efforts to build a clean and transparent election system are necessary

Where there are elections, there is always the possibility of irregularities of different kinds to rig or manipulate the voting process in some people's favor. China is no exception.

The scandal involving 56 deputies to Hunan provincial people's congress, who secured their position on the assembly by bribing 518 deputies to the people's congress of Hengyang city to vote for them, is undoubtedly the most serious scandal of its kind in the country's history.

It is horrifying. The 56 provincial lawmakers have been disqualified and the 518 people's congress deputies in Hengyang have resigned. An investigation is now underway to uncover the whole story about how these people could be nominated as candidates and were able to flout the law in such a flagrant manner.

But horrendous as this case is, it is necessary for us to have a clear understanding of how complicated and difficult it is to establish an effective, transparent and clean election system. It is equally difficult to maintain such a system from being contaminated by irregularities even if such a system is firmly established, as is the case in most of the developed countries.

In the United States where the president is seemingly elected directly by voters, former US president Richard Nixon had to resign after his administration was found to have conducted an array of clandestine and often illegal activities including dirty tricks such as bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon and his officials were suspicious. Questions have also been raised about the way the 2000 and 2004 elections were conducted.

Elections all over the world are accompanied by irregularities of various kinds. It is because there are always those who cannot resist the temptation of power, and they are willing to resort to illegal means if necessary to obtain it.

No matter how well an election system is designed, those who want to manipulate it in their own favor can always work out some way or other to obtain votes in their favor.

This is true of the vote-buying in the city of Hengyang. The fact that 518 out of 527 deputies took bribes from candidates to the provincial legislative body to cast votes in their favor speaks volumes about a serious deficiency in the election system and the lack of supervision over the election process.

In the Hengyang's people's congress election form Dec 28, 2012 to Jan 3, 2013, it seems the evil forces brought the election under their control and the total money the 56 candidates spent as bribes to deputies amounted to 110 million yuan ($18.14 million).

However, they were doomed if they believed that they could pull the strings behind the local legislative body in their favor.

But election fraud, such as this, also occurs because of the conflict between justice and injustice that has been the constant companion to the development of human civilization.

There is certainly a conflict between justice and injustice accompanying the development of the election system in China. This conflict may be more severe in China, because of its lack of election experience; the lack of awareness about their right to vote on the part of voters and the lack of respect for voters on the part of candidates have added to the difficulties in the building a sound election system.

The country's new leadership is firmly resolved to root out corruption, and close attention needs to be paid to the loopholes this vote-buying scandal has revealed in the country's system for the election of deputies to local legislative bodies.

I believe there are irregularities of other kinds in the elections of people's congress deputies in other parts of the country, which are evidenced by the apprehension of some people's congress deputies, who proved to have been corrupt elements even before they were elected to the legislative bodies. There will be irregularities even if the election process is placed under tight supervision and with considerable transparency, as there is no way to absolutely keep morally corrupt people out of a political system, not only in China but also in other countries around the world. Neither is there any effective way to keep people with moral integrity from being corroded by the voracity of power and money.

However, irregularities will never eliminate elections, which are the one way for voters to exercise their democratic rights and for citizens to express their political will.

Uncovering such a big local people's congress election scandal points to the new leadership's zero tolerance of corruption. The CPC watchdog central commission for disciplinary inspection has published its five-year plan, which explicitly maps out the task to build a firewall against corruption within the Party and the government.

The building of a sound election system for people's congresses at all levels, which needs to make it difficult for the elections to be rigged, needs to be included in this plan.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

(China Daily 12/30/2013 page8)