BEIJING – China said Wednesday that there is no such a thing as an “independent candidate,” as it’s not recognized by law, amid ongoing elections starting this year of lawmakers at the county and township legislatures.
The Electoral Law stipulates that candidates for lawmakers at the county- and township-levels should be first nominated as “deputy candidate” and then confirmed as “official deputy candidate” in due legal procedures, said an official of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature.
The official, head of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, made the remarks when asked about campaign announcements by “independent candidates” to run for deputies to the grassroots people’s congresses. These announcements were made on the web over the past few weeks.
The Constitution and the Electoral Law grant qualified citizens the right to vote and to be elected, but election activities must adhere with the law and its specific provisions for the election procedures of lawmakers, the official said.
The procedures follow four steps. A citizen must first register and win confirmation of his or her qualifications for lawmaker candidacy. Then receive a nomination as “deputy candidate” by political parties, social organizations, or 10 or more voters in one constituency.
Later, the list of official deputy candidates is determined based on the majority of opinions of the constituency, or in a preliminary vote if necessary. All campaign activities must be organized by electoral committees, said the official, citing the Electoral Law.
Under the Electoral Law, electoral committees are set up to manage the election of local legislatures, including county and township ones. The electoral committees responsible for election of county and township legislature are under the authority of the standing committee of county legislatures.
China started elections of lawmakers at the county- and township-levels on May 7, which granted, for the first time, equal representation in legislative bodies to rural and urban citizens.
More than 2 million lawmakers at the county- and township-levels will be elected during nationwide elections, held every five years, in more than 2,000 counties and 30,000 townships, according to the NPC.
Statistics show that more than 900 million people will vote for lawmakers at the county level, and more than 600 million citizens will vote for township-level candidates.
These are the first elections after the Electoral Law amendments were adopted in March 2010 that require both rural and urban areas to adopt the same ratio of deputies to the represented population in elections of people’s congress deputies.
The previous electoral law stipulated that each rural deputy represented a population four times that of an urban deputy, which was interpreted as “farmers only enjoy one-quarter of the suffrage of their urban counterparts.”
Of note, the difference was even eight times as great under earlier laws.
In addition to an equal representation ratio in rural and urban areas, the official said that the amendment of the Electoral Law also aims to guarantee equal franchise of every citizen, equal representation of every area, and representation of every ethnic group with a proper number of lawmakers.
The official said that election organizers should take various measures to create favorable conditions for the country’s 260 million migrant population to fulfill their electoral rights.
For instance, the obstacles the migrant population faces to win candidacy at the place of current residence, not its registered original place of residence, can be moderately loosened when appropriate. The measure is expected to encourage members of the migrant population to run for deputies where they currently live.
The revised Electoral Law increases interaction between voters and candidates by stating that electoral committees on voters’ requests should arrange for candidates to meet with voters for a self-introduction and to answer voters’ questions, the official said.
To allow more meetings, the revised law extends the period for publicizing the name list of official candidates from five days to a week before the election day, the official said, adding that introductive activities of candidates must stop on election day.
The official said that both introductive activities of candidates and their meetings with voters must be arranged by electoral committees in strict accordance with the law.
As citizens are required by law to register in order to vote, the official said election organizers should send staff to voters’ residences and work places to have them registered.
The organizers can also set up registration stations or encourage voters to register through TV, radio, and the Internet, the official said.