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Zhejiang farmers elect village head
By Shao Xiaoyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-18 05:47

HANGZHOU: It was a rainy morning in late March when hundreds of locals from Tangjiadai Village of Tangxi County in East China's Zhejiang Province descended on the polling station to elect a village director and two vice-directors.

The prosperous village, home to 902 people, decided to introduce a new electoral practice: Direct election based on self-recommendation.

All franchised villagers who were eligible to be committee members and willing to help the community, were welcomed to recommend themselves for posts on the committee.

Before this new practice came into being, village committees were elected by eligible voters from candidates previously approved by the committee.

It was 8:30 am when the voting villagers got their first taste of the new system.

Three volunteer candidates were up for the post of committee director, and another two for the vice-directorships.

The five candidates delivered their election speeches one after the other. And after a secret ballot, the result was announced on the day, as soon as the counting was done.

Jin Fujin, 50, was the only candidate without previous experience as a village official.

Though he did not have high expectation of winning, Jin said he enjoyed the experience.

"For the first time I had the chance to show my ability and commitment to do things for my fellow villagers," said Jin.

For 49-year-old Yin Shuigen, who became director of the village in 2002, this election was the most high-pressure yet.

Beating out his two challengers, the incumbent Yin won the election and will embark on a second term.

Zhou Guiyu, 88, the most senior voter in the village, said the new election system really helped her make the right decision after listening to volunteer candidates' clear plans, adding that the mobile polling box used in the past really made elections aimless.

Villagers voted for 10 candidates for the committee director and 22 for the vice-director, said Zhong Yuhua, chief of the election committee.

Some 694 of the village's 718 eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots. Those missing were either working elsewhere or ill, Zhong said.

"The new practice provides a stage for talented villagers to participate in the management of their own village. Through self-recommendation they stand out, wining the election and proving they are capable," said Zhong.

Zhang Hongguo, chief of the Grass-roots Government and Community Construction Division of the Hangzhou Civil Affairs Bureau, said the new practice was worth noting and should be encouraged as it greatly reduces the costs of a village committee election and makes the whole election process more rational, economical and efficient.

Usually, a direct election for a village committee means six meetings must take place, while the new election system only requires two meetings, which saves a lot of subsidies paid out when villagers miss work, Zhang said.

(China Daily 04/18/2005 page2)

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