No leniency to vote-buying

Updated: 2013-12-30 07:15

(China Daily)

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We have heard of vote-buying in village leader elections in rural communities. We have seen sporadic exposs of vote-buying on various other balloting occasions. But vote-buying at such a level and on such a scale and with such effrontery has no precedence in our memory.

Most outrageous of all, it occurred within the highest local organ of power. It is a barbaric gang rape of our national laws by local lawmakers. It is a naked assault on the country's fundamental political design the People's Congress system - which has devastating consequences for public confidence in the system.

All but nine of the 527 deputies of the 14th People's Congress of Hengyang attending their very first full session accepted bribes before voting to select the city's delegates to the provincial legislature. Three others were in "serious dereliction of duty".

The People's Congress of Hengyang city, Hunan province, is in de facto paralysis. The provincial People's Congress is crippled.

Housecleaning regarding the local legislature is proceeding: 515 local lawmakers have resigned, the 56 people who bribed their way into the provincial legislature have had their seats nullified, and five others have been suspended for serious dereliction of duty. And the local provincial Party committee has placed 413 Party members involved under investigation for disciplinary violations, and those who are found guilty will be handed over to judicial organs for criminal investigation. So far so good.

Time is short for rebuilding a 500-strong local legislature almost from scratch. Hengyang will have to complete the reshuffle by February 10, when the provincial People's Congress convenes for its annual session.

This will preclude some meaningful experiments on refining the formulation of our local legislatures. But the reshuffle must be carried out in strict accordance with the election laws and formulation of local people's congresses. First and foremost, the elections have to be clean and just.

At the same time, the scandal should not be treated as an isolated case limited to the local legislature itself. It may be the outcome of a corrupt local political biosphere, which will in turn lead to further decay in local officialdom.

It is imperative to examine the legislative work done by previous lawmakers. It is essential to find out whether similar violations occurred in the election of major local officials, as well as in other decisions on local affairs. It is important to ascertain if the malpractice has extended into other branches of the local government.

And one more question must be answered: Is such lawless practice peculiar to Hengyang?

(China Daily 12/30/2013 page8)