China votes but the Communist Party makes it hard to run for office
Anyone hoping to stand for elections to the National People's Congress (NPC) this year will first have to clear "due legal procedures," Xinhua said.
This echoes a statement by a National People's Congress Legislative Affairs Commission official who said, "There are no so-called independent candidates” in China.
These comments explain little but come after many popular microbloggers announced their intention to run as independent candidates in the upcoming NPC elections. Now some wonder whether they are sign that obstacles will be placed on the path of candidates not approved by the Communist Party.
Elections are held every five years in China. This year’s round began on 7 May and continues across the country. Two million elected officials must fill positions at every level, from village councils to the National People’s Congress, including 2,000 counties and 30,000 townships.
Under the law, any mainland citizen who is over 18 can become a tentative, then official, candidate as long as the applicant follows certain procedures and has the support of at least 10 voters. This way, independent candidates have been able to get elected in village councils and small towns. In larger urban centres, all nominations require formal Communist Party approval.
Independent candidates say that they have a right to run with party endorsement. At present, they are waiting to see how things unfold.
Activist Yao Lifa, who won a seat as an independent in a congress in Qianjiang, Hubei , in 1999, is confident that he would not face any negative surprises.
However, many experts wonder what “independent candidates” may actually mean, concerned that Beijing might make it harder for candidates who are not aligned with the Communist Party to run for office.
In fact, all election campaigns in China are managed by party-controlled electoral committees. The authorities publish a final list of officially approved candidates up to one week ahead of polling day, giving candidates limited time to make themselves known to voters.