Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Voter fraud in China?

When elections are symbolic events meant to look like democratic procedures, why (and how) could voter fraud take place? (Hint: remember guanxi?)

An Unlikely Crime in One-Party China: Election Fraud
China’s legislature has expelled 45 of its members in a vote-buying scandal that has snared a prominent businessman who is active in donating to American universities, foundations and political campaigns.

Some of the lawmakers whose dismissals were announced on Tuesday, all from the economically struggling northeastern province of Liaoning, had bribed their way into the National People’s Congress by buying votes, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

The nearly 3,000 members of the congress, which meets as a full body for less than two weeks each March, ratify laws and government programs, usually with little drama. Members are mostly voted in by lower-ranking organizations, including provincial congresses…
NPC session, 2016

Often derided as a rubber-stamp legislature, the congress and its companion advisory body have in recent years become a club for some of China’s wealthiest executives, keen to rub elbows with government officials. Holding such high office also brings prestige and, much like peerage or knighthood in Britain, is seen as a marker of status in the Communist Party-dominated establishment. In China, it is sometimes known as “wearing the red hat.”

“People within the system can trade interests,” Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, said by telephone. “Whoever gets elected will have a pass to do so.”…

“For reasons that don’t make sense to outsiders given the ‘rubber stamp’ nature of the N.P.C., membership in any honorary body is coveted by people who see it as a mark of social status, something to add to their resumes,” said Suzanne Pepper, a scholar based in Hong Kong who studies Chinese elections.

Many of the expelled delegates are executives of private businesses or leaders of state-owned companies, rather than career politicians and military officers — who are also well represented on the body…

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